Politics 101: How Washington Works (And your state is about the same too!) Mark J. Golden, CAE Executive Director & CEO NCRA T.E.A.M. seminar August 4, 2010
“It’s all just Politics”• Politics – Defined – From the Latin• Politics – The Reality – Balancing between conflicting and competing interests
Special Interests• We would all like to think – our own motivations and needs are entirely altruistic and pure – Conflicting interests are entirely venal and corrupt• The truth of the matter – We are all special interests … including the elected official
What drives your Member of Congress?•Money•Power
The Money Chase• The very first day s/he arrives in Washington, your representative needs to start preparing for his/her next campaign – Cost of Winning a House Seat • 1976: $90,000 • 2008: $1.1 Million – Cost of Winning a Senate Seat • 1976: $590,000 • 2008: $6.5 Million – President Obama spent $514 Million in the 2008 General Election • $7.39 per vote cast in his favor
Political Power• Much like money – It’s about banking favors to secure future support – Choosing when to spend political capital and on what• Banking enough clout to get your legislative priorities accomplished also means moving up the food chain – Committees – Leadership• That requires showing your value to party leadership – Raising campaign funds – Voting consistently with your caucus
But money and power are justmeans to an end …• The ultimate goal is do the right thing for their constituents as well. – In monetary terms, that means getting the most they can for their district or state.
The Circular Dilemma• I can’t deliver for my constituents if I don’t get re- elected. – I can’t get re-elected if I don’t raise money.• I can’t deliver for my constituents if I don’t acquire power and use it wisely. – To get support for what matters to me, I need to support the priorities and policies of allies. – I need to compromise on some issues. • Politics is the art of the achievable not the ideal.• Raising money and acquiring Hill power distracts me from focusing on my constituents ! ! ! !
When push comes to shove, it’sabout GRASSROOTS "Votes beat dollars every time." (Dick Armey) When they are hearing from the folks back home, it doesnt matter how many $5K PAC Checks theyre getting from Washington associations.
But does that mean “ALL” theirconstituents?• Less than 4% of the districts’ voting population write or call their legislators.• It is the squeaky wheel that gets the oil. – Being persistent is the key. – You must work harder and smarter and make people on the Hill believe that you will never go away. – Only then will they take you seriously and work to make your issue “go away.”
We in America do not havegovernment by the majority. Wehave government by the majority who participate. Thomas Jefferson
What is your biggest legislativeobstacle?• The opposition?• Money?• Time?• In fact, it is inertia – in·er·tia (ĭ-nûrshə) • A body at rest will tend to remain at rest. • A body in motion will tend to continue that motion
Every one of these steps is an opportunity to lose momentum and become bogged down
Current environment on Capitol Hill• Changes in the political landscape have completely restructured the priorities on the Hill• It is marginally more friendly to our issues, as most of NCRA’s issues appeal more to Democratic legislators• Things like the unemployment, healthcare and the upcoming mid-term elections are pushing EVERYTHING else to the back burner.
But more than anything else … It’s the Economy, Stupid
And remember . . . The party in the minority today might be the party in the majority when your Bill finally makes it to a vote on Final Passage!• The Stage Door philosophy does not work in politics: “There is no reason to be nice to the people you meet on the way up unless you plan on coming back down”
Effective Politics• Identify WHO – Makes the decisions that will drive the outcome • NOT who you think will be most sympathetic to your pitch – Can influence the key decision maker• Identify WHAT – They want and need out of the decision• Identify HOW – To align what you want and need with what they want and need
Can I make what I need and whatthey need the same thing?• If yes: work with the decision maker• If no: work with whomever might be able to move the decision maker
One Day in the Life of a Congressman8:00am Breakfast – w/General Scowcroft8:30am Breakfast Briefing- Republican Pro-Choice Coalition9:00am GOP Conference10:00am Ways & Means Bipartisan meeting w/Secretary of Trade10:15am International Relations Committee hearing- re. Russia’s Policies Toward the Axis of Evil: Money & Geopolitics in Iraq and Iran10:30am Ways & Means Committee Hearing – re. Presidents Bush’s trade agenda w/Secretary of Trade & Markup re. Views and Estimates Letter to the Committee on the Budget12:00pm Ways & Means Lunch12:30pm Lunch Tuesday Group (Moderate Republicans)1:00pm Meet w/Representative Boelhert – re. environmental legislation1:30pm Desk time w/Bonnie and Laura2:30pm Meet w/Director of Elmira College – re. appropriations3:00pm Meet w/Congressman Quinn, Sen. Clinton, Tom Reynolds, Louise Slaughter – re. Budget requests for Western NY4:00pm Members Only Briefing – re. War on Terrorism- Iraq w/Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld5:00pm Bipartisan Retreat meeting6:00pm Gym6:00pm Stop by – Party in honor of Connie Morella7:00pm Speak at Awards Dinner for Women in Business7:00 -- ? Votes until early morning (possibly 2:00am)
The Messaging Challenge …• I’m busy• You’re busy• Who has time for this?
The Elevator Speech• In the length of time you would normally have in an elevator ride, can I communicate: – Who am I, – Why am I here, and – What do I want?
But what about MY ISSUE?• Now that you have seen a Congressman’s busy schedule how do you get your member’s attention? – Be early. – Keep it short and sweet. – Have your message down. – Be polite and gracious. – Give them back up material. – Mention your key contacts that they might know. – Show them the need, bring a CART provider with you. (You will blow them away!) – Thank them for their time. – Follow up with a thank you letter and remind them of your issue.
Don’t forget the staff! • So how do you get the staff’s attention when they sit in meetings all day long as well? • Be on time. (That’s 10 minutes early) • Be polite and courteous. • Make sure they are aware of the impact your issue will have on the district. • Keep your message short but to the point. • Try to build a relationship with the staff. • Have your message down. • Give them back up material. • Show them the need, bring a CART provider with you. • Thank them for their time. • Follow up with a phone call. • Keep a dialogue going with the staff. • Your relationship with the staff will determine your success since staff does the leg work for the member.
Profile of a Hill Office• Average size of Hill office – House • 9 staffers • 50% of time answering constituent mail• Senate – 22 staffers – 5 of those exclusive for constituent mail• Overall Congress receives 18 million pieces of mail each year – Sending a letter will take 2-4 weeks for a response – Post 9/11-Anthrax scare: physical mail can be delayed days, weeks or even months before it even arrives• AND over 182 million emails!• Staffing profile has not changed from 1970 format
Pyramid of Influence Member AA or Chief of Staff Legislative Director Legislative Assistant Legislative Correspondent
Roles of Congressional Staff• Administrative Assistant (AA) or Chief of Staff (CoS) – He/she usually has overall responsibility for evaluating the political outcomes of various legislative proposals and constituent requests. This person is also usually in charge of overall office operations. He or she is the boss of the office under the member.• Legislative Director (LD) – The LD is usually the staff person who monitors the legislative schedule and makes recommendations regarding the pros and cons of particular issues.• Legislative Assistant (LA) – The LA handles specific legislative issue areas that they concentrate on in particular. They advise the member on the legislative issue and closely monitor any legislation in that area.• Press Secretary or Communications Director – The Press Secretary’s responsibility is to build and maintain open and effective lines of communication between the member, his/her constituency, and the general public.
Roles of Congressional Staff• Scheduler or Appointment Secretary – The scheduler is responsible for keeping the schedule for the Congressperson. Every minute of the Congressperson’s day is planned out by the scheduler. Various other tasks fall on this position as the member’s personal assistant.• Legislative Correspondent – Legislative Correspondents answer almost all of the constituent mail that comes into the office. They must have a wide range of knowledge on a great many issues.• Office Manager – The Office Manager runs the administrative side of the office.• Staff Assistant or Receptionist – The staff assistant answers phones, greets visitors, gives tours, and performs a multitude of administrative tasks.
Let’s look at that again Member AA or Chief of Staff Legislative Director Legislative Assistant Legislative Correspondent Who is most important?
Things you may not know aboutCongress …• Many Members never read the bills before they vote on them – Members very rarely know what they will be voting on until “the walk.”• Most Members think more about issues that affect their constituencies than they might about “big picture” issues• Members focus on people that vote.• Members work very hard, often from early a.m. to late into the night.• Congress actually passes very few bills in a year. • For example, in a recent year, 5,514 bills were introduced and only 300 actually became law.
Final Words on UnderstandingWashington• Persistence pays off. – In politics, sometimes “no” just means “not now.”• Make friends with everyone. – You never know when they may be in a position to help you.• Understand that politics are everywhere – You don’t have to like it – You don’t even need to compromise on your values – But to get what you want, you have to play the game.• Most legislators and their staffs really want to help and they need you to assist them in assisting you. Be flexible --- shift happens!