A man with a briefcase of cash wining and dining Senators and Representatives on behalf of corporate interests. Like many Americans, before coming to D.C. that was essentially my view of lobbyists. They were an entity corrupting the political process, over-representing those with money and power, often at the expense of those most vulnerable.
However, when I met Julie from CCAO at the American University Job fair, I learned how people were fighting these interests and protecting the vulnerable. And the ironic thing was that they were using the same lobbying method as the corporate interests, sans the briefcase of cash of course. I was fascinated and applied for a position as an intern at CCAO
Four months later, I am at the office door for my Senator, Barbara Boxer. I’m on my first real lobbying expedition as part of a delegation from the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering. Although I will not actually be talking, leaving that to the heads of the respective groups there including CCAO, I am an integral part of this political process. As a constituent, my presence there represents the people in the Senator’s state unhappy about the recent budget proposals cutting funding to international aid and domestic social programs. As we all gather in the conference room to meet with the Senator’s staffer, I know that I am helping to make a difference in the lives of people in my state, my nation, and my world.
Looking back on the experience, maybe my presence did not mean all that much in the grand scheme of things. I was one person from the state, the meeting only lasted fifteen minutes (like most of these meetings), and the Senator already agreed with all of our positions. However, I know how important it is to remind these Senators that it is not just corporations looking at what they are doing. They need to know that their constituents do care and will continue to fight for those in need. And back at the CCAO office, as I sit down to write another congressional letter, I know that lobbyists aren’t all bad.