In December, News Growl interviewed Laura Reese, the Lobbyists 4 Good activist who launched a successfully-funded campaign to lobby against federal subsidies of animal agriculture. She is so enthusiastic about her campaign, she decided to join L4G co-founder Billy DeLancey as a “subject matter expert” for three weeks.
Laura arrived in DC from California earlier this month, and has been experiencing the busy life of a lobbyist with Billy for the last ten days.
“We are about halfway through a packed schedule of about thirty meetings in total,” Billy told News Growl in a phone conversation on Monday.
“The first thing we did after Laura arrived was set up a strategy meeting with another lobbyist,” he continued. “Then we went to some networking events, and had two ‘friendly’ meetings to get our feet wet. Starting last Monday, we hit the ground running.”
It is clear Laura is enjoying her new role as a lobbyist – even if it is only temporary.
“I’ve been surprised at how accessible the offices are on Capitol Hill, and how you can just walk in and meet with people,” she said. “You have to set meetings up in advance, of course, but it’s doable. I’m impressed with the number of meetings Billy has been able to get with the right staffers.
“When you watch what’s going on in DC from afar, it seems like this big, imposing thing that normal people can’t take part in,” she continued. “But in reality it’s the same as talking to people at a local or state level. They’re all people and you just can just talk with them.”
According to both Laura and Billy, honing your message is a key skill for any lobbyist work.
“We have to be as focused as possible,” Billy said. “Normally we only have a fifteen minute window, so we quickly outline our issue, propose a solution, and explain how to get will help their Congressman’s constituents. If you do that well, people will listen.”
“You have to be quick and get to the point and be concise,” Laura agreed. “People are friendly, but they’ve got a full day and we’ve only booked a short slot. Everybody has been pretty engaged. Some have been enthusiastic and some more tepid, but everyone has listened.”
Lobbying may be new for Laura, but persuasion and negotiation are not. Her visit actually coincides with the publication of a book she wrote about improving customer interaction, called Align, based on her work in Silicon Valley.
“Relationship building and communication are just as important in lobbying as in any other area of life it turns out,” Laura said.
We asked Laura if she had a favorite memory of her time in DC so far.
“In one meeting I was talking to a staffer who wanted to know more about the animal agriculture industry. We’d established trust and I realized he was looking to me for insight. That was an awesome moment. It made me suddenly realize if you can frame an issue properly you can influence the whole conversation going forward.
“I’m sure that doesn’t happen all the time,” she said, “but now I really understand the power of lobbying.”
“What Laura has experienced is the power of the Subject Matter Expert,” Billy agreed. “Congressional staffers are busy, and are typically juggling dozens of issues at a time. If you can provide them with a focused understanding of an issue it becomes incredibly influential.”
Midway through their initial lobbying round, Billy has developed a target for him and Laura to aim for.
“We are hoping to get some authorizing language in a bill for a pilot program we are proposing,” he said. “It will help farmers to transition from animal to plant-based agriculture. At the moment, we are focused on the House, and are trying to get the program included in the Green New Deal we expect the Democrats to propose. We will see where that goes before we go to the Senate.
“Hopefully we will raise some more money to extend the lobbying,” he continued. “The current campaign has 70 days left to finish raising the next $5,000. We’ve had several contributions come in in the last few days, so I feel positive.”
Laura was adamant that keeping the lobbying efforts going is essential.
“Everything I’ve experienced in Washington so far is telling me we need to do more of this. We need an army of people. This can’t just be a one-time effort.
“I want to come back and continue the conversations,” she said. “When we’re not here someone else is having those conversations, and we are silent. We need to be here all the time.”
Billy agreed about the importance of continued lobbying for the campaign.
“This is a tool that corporations use and very few other people have access to it,” he said. “It’s a way to level the playing field and for people to have a voice.”
News Growl will continue to provide updates on the Lobbyists 4 Good campaign in Washington.