How to Be A Lobbyist -- Or Just Talk Like One
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, journalist Matt Taibbi writes about his "personal journey into Washington's culture of greed." In January, Taibbi attended Senator Conrad Burns's (R-MT) birthday bash (for the low price of $500) and pretended he was a lobbyist working for a company that wants to drill for oil in the Grand Canyon:
When Heggem [the person who handles energy issues for Burns] was finally free, I introduced myself. "I work for Dosko-Konsult," I said. "We're a Russian company. We represent a number of Russian energy companies. Specifically I work with a company called PerDuNefteGaz."The entire piece is worth reading. Just be sure to remind yourself that you're not reading fiction.
"What?" she said, leaning over.
"PerDuNefteGaz," I said. "It's a Russian oil company . . ."
"Oh, yeah," she said. "Yeah, of course."
I suppressed a laugh. My Friend in Politics had told me that everyone I met at the party would pretend to know the company I worked for. "PerDuNefteGaz" translates roughly as "FartOilGas."
I pressed on, stammering through a researched speech about my client's discovery of an "abiogenic theory of petroleum recovery" and some new surveys we'd been conducting. A sharp woman, Heggem was right there with me, even when I stopped making sense. "Basically you're using new technology, new recovery methods," she said.
"Exactly," I said. Then I laid it on her. "We're pursuing a number of projects," I said. "Including one that would involve some exploratory drilling in Grand Canyon National Park. Now, obviously this is complicated but . . . at some point in time I was hoping we could sit down and I could tell you a little more about our company and our energy-independent project."
"OK," she said. She gave me her information and told me to call her anytime. We shook hands. For a few minutes more we stood there chatting. I asked what the protesters were there for, pleading ignorance -- I'd just flown in from Moscow.
"It's all of that Abramoff stuff," she said.
"It's funny," I said. "In Russia, they can't understand . . ."
"They don't understand why this is even a big deal with Abramoff, right?" she cut in.
"Exactly," I said.
We parted; I moved through the crowd in the direction of Burns. Up close, the senator looks like little more than a big exhausted lump -- like a sack of potatoes with a mushy, half-caved-in pineapple on top.