All I know about lobbying I learned from the movie “The American President.” (During which I determined that Mrs. Spocko was more attractive than Annette Bening.)
The movie shows everything people think they know about lobbying: getting the vote count right, educating congress people, making deals, trade offs and pay offs with different groups in exchange for current or future votes, the unusual bed fellows (literally) and finally dealing with the expectations of, and exposure in, the media.
I saw that movie three times, so clearly I’m an expert on what the lobbyists will do next following this current vote on TPP.
Luckily I have some friends who actually were lobbyists and I talk and listen to them to see what really goes on. I wanted to know what they did after a failure and what they think the pro-TPP people will do next.
But first, what do WE do after success? One of my least favorite phrases after a victory or semi-victory is, “Now the hard work begins.” Screw you Negative Nelly! Bite me Pragmatic Patrick! Piss off Realist Rick!
I say, “Give the fighters a pat on the back! Give ’em a raise. Take a bow people who worked so hard to educate!”
Then everyone should hug the helpers and friends. Smile and laugh and drink and tell funny stories. We MUST enjoy and celebrate victories. In the past I didn’t. Post victory I went right into the next project with no down time. Big mistake. My body knew better and usually I’d get the flu.
So now’s the time to look at what worked, what didn’t. What did we do right? What could we do differently next time? How do we build on success? Can we create future barriers for the opposition? What barriers to our success can we bring down now for next time?
I wanted to know, “What do my lobbyists friends do after a losing campaign?”
They regroup. Take a break. Yes they lost, but they still got paid. They explain to the client how this is really a victory. They explain how it sets the stage for the next campaign. They tell the story of how this loss is really an opportunity to change things for success next time, based on what was learned. They just need more money to make it happen.
They determine what the landscape looks like now, then start again.
As we saw from the net neutrality fights, when the people close a door the lobbyists open a window. The second they fail on one front they cry,
“And we would have won too if it wasn’t for those meddling kids!”
Then they look for new ways to win.
We can wait around to see what they will do next, or we can ask former lobbyists, ‘What are they going to do next? What can we do to tie them up now? How can we thwart their future plans? What would YOU suggest? Why would it work? Why is nobody doing this? How would they respond?”
So, taking a page from the actual lobbyists vs. the movie ones, I would like to suggest a specific long-term action to take now.
We need a transparency mechanism for international agreements. Time to set up a bill that would have bi-partisian support on this. Prepare a message for each side based on their biases.
For the right:
“With the TPP Obama was going to secretly give away the sovereignty of the UNITED STATES to foreign countries and to un-elected tribunals!!
Let’s never let a President have that kind of power again (esp. if Clinton wins). That power needs to remain in congress (which we will control). Congress needs to know what is going on, especially when it comes to deals with foreign powers (who either want to pay us or kill us.) Why did those horrible hackers at WikiLeaks know something our own Congresspeople didn’t?”
For the left:
“The ability of multi-national corporations to hide deals from the government needs to stop, especially when they kill jobs, destroy the environment and taint our food. (Things voters care about)
As a nation we can push for deals that are beneficial for Americans. If the deals are so great, why don’t the corporations want the public knowing? (Companies are really afraid of pissed off consumers, not bought off congresspeople. This bill forces transparency which gives them have no choice but to protect voters.)”
I say transparency because it’s an obvious issue, but I really think the bill should contain more, with transparency just one part of it.
None of the billionaires and their Pet Presidential candidates want transparency, but the people like it. We can ask all the candidates if they are for it (“You won’t be like Clinton and her emails will you?!”) then watch as their lead billionaires tell them to walk back all that transparency stuff.
Maybe get Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Alan Grayson and some Clinton hating presidential candidate to put together a transparency bill. One written my our former lobbyists’ friends to make current lobbyists crazy.
It would be a short term tactical move that could capitalize on the temporary bi-partisan agreement. The left congress people are angry at being locked out of the text, the right’s afraid of the future dictator’s secret FEMA camp contracts. It would provide some long term help for the America people against the concentrated power of the billionaires and their need for secrecy.
I’m not in the beltway loop (Ha! Beltloop!) so maybe this in already in the works, or it was suggested and shot down for a million reasons that a stupid non-insider wouldn’t understand. That is when I throw down the gauntlet to the insiders and ask. “Okay, you are wiser than a tree full of owls, what CAN we do to make some transparency happen?”
Personally I would get Annette Bening to help push a lobbying/trade transparency bill through. Then when I meet her, I’d tell her that I’ve always thought that Mrs. Spocko was prettier than her. But maybe that would be rude.
Frankly I’m tired of being the dirty hippie whom, after the fact, everyone says was right, but during the time when it would have made a difference nobody acts to do the right thing or the strategic thing.
So if pushing for new levels of transparency is the right thing to do, what would it take to make it happen? And if someone is already doing it, what can we do to help?
Now I’m off to watch the beltway’s favorite film starring Annette Bening, The Grifters.