The L word, part 2
Lobbying….a shady job
The nice thing when you are a lobbyist, is that usually, once you are at family events, when they ask what you do and you answer “lobbyist”, people just look puzzled and answer “Oh, I thought you were a lawyer” (not sure why one excludes the other, though…and pretty sure one should not be considered shadier as the other by any standard).
Last night however, I found myself confronted with a braver (or more inquisitive) member of the family circle who litterally shouted upon hearing my answer “Aaaah! How interesting! Hmmmm…I have heard it said that lobbyists are shady characters”. “How funny, I replied, I heard exactly the same thing said about plumbers” (the man being a plumber, he seemed a bit taken aback by my reply).
I ended up spending a good 30 minutes trying to explain what a lobbyist does (give a certain perspective about legislative instruments and try to explain the practical impact an often theoretical text might have) Vs what he/she usually does not do , i.e. lavishly wine and dine politicians whilst slipping them gifts. I said the latter category probably existed too but did not fall under the heading “lobbyist” in my book.
I am not sure I fully convinced him as he kept grinning and winking at me (or maybe I was just showing too much cleavage that evening), but it certainly reinforced my commitment to making this challenging job of mine better known to the outside world (I mean outside the euro-bubble).
First, I am not denying there are dubious practices some seem to consider as part of lobbying. Recent press coverage of French MEP Dati’s creation of a Consulting firm specialised in “strategic” advice according to its statutes and a Paris Match article only days after starting her new job at the European Parliament and her ommission to mention it in her Financial Interests Declaration (July version as posted on the site of Marianne here and August version here), or coverage by bloggers of how civil servants from Permanent Representations switch to industry shortly after te presidency of their country ends, do not help in creating a healthy and transparent impression.
But every profession has good and bad sides to it, and professional and less professional elements exercising it.
So the best thing you can do is to do a darn good job and be proud of it, to avoid ending like this anonymous US lobbyist who was quoted as stating ” “Lobbyist” has never been a good word. I grew up in Delaware, and I had to give a speech (…) . There were about 50 guys who all knew my family very well, and I sad, ‘Because of the work I do, I am a registered lobbyist, but please do not tell my mother. She still thinks I’m a piano player at a whorehouse and would be horrified to find out I was a lobbyist’” (From “The Lobbyist’s Book of Quotes“, by Ch. de Fouloy).
It was therefore quite refreshing to see the results put together by Burson Marsteller and PSB this year following a survey they conducted on the effectiveness and perception of EU lobbying, the results of which were issued in powerpoint format in August by the German office and as a full “Guide to Effective Lobbying in Europe“ in October 2009 by the Brussels office, with European Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas as keynote speaker. But more about that in part 3!