Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lobby Day 2015 (Part 1) A Retrospective--Walking Through the Halls of Power

Lobby Day with Larry and Ellen Buelow (Photo courtesy of Robin Stephenson)
Bread for the World's Lobby Day is just about a week away, and I would like to take this opportunity to offer a retrospective about my trips to Capitol Hill over the years as a New Mexican.

I have been to Rayburn and Cannon and Longworth House Office Buildings and Hart, Russell and Dirksen Senate Office Buildings many, many times. I still get a bit of a rush while walking through the "halls of power," although the process is now very familiar to me.

Counting Cards
How many times have I been to Capitol Hill as a citizen advocate? Let me count the business cards. I have kept the cards of almost every congressional aide that has met with me, mostly in Washington (but also in Albuquerque). Would you believe I have close to 70 cards? A few are duplicates. so let's say I have about 60 different names.

Here's a representative sample: James Stein (Rep. Steve Schiff), Kathy Keith (Rep. Bill Richardson), Jaime Castillo (Rep. Joe Skeen), Ashlie Warnick (Rep. Bill Redmond), Vivek Gopalan (Rep. Harry Teague), Lennea Shane (Rep. Heather Wilson), Jeanette Lyman (Rep. Tom Udall), Terri Nikole Baca (Rep. Ben Ray Lujan), Jonathan Shuffield (Rep. Steve Pearce), Alma Acosta (Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham), Tony Samp (Rep. Martin Heinrich and Sen. Martin Heinrich), Jeffrey Phan (Sen. Jeff Bingaman), Elizabeth Turpen (Sen. Pete Domenici) and Matthew Padilla (Sen. Tom Udall).   

There is also a card from Alice Grant of the Senate Budget Committee. How did I get that card? I tagged along on a meeting that former Government Relations director Barbara Howell had scheduled with Ms. Grant, who worked closely with  Sen. Pete Domenici. Sen. Domenici was a key player on this committee, and I was his constituent.

Many times, I went to the congressional meetings solo, and I think I handled them fairly well. Yet, I was often jealous of the large delegations of Bread members who came to Lobby Day from states that are not so far away from Washington. (Hint, hint: Pennsylvania, New York, and even Michigan).

Still, there have been years when  motivated and knowledgeable companions have formed part of our delegation. Larry and Ellen Buelow from Albuquerque have joined me the last couple of years on the trips to Capitol Hill. Other New Mexicans who have lobbied with me at least once are Rev. Art Meyer from Farmington, Connie Mirabal from Pojoaque Pueblo, Marcia Fitzner from Estancia, Ruth Hoffman from Santa Fe and fellow Albuquerque residents Karen Navarro, John Foley, Ann Sims, Hank Bruce, Vicky Scheidler Wood, Emily Thorn, Andrea Lucero Watje, Gladys Evans, and Graham Golden. Albuquerqueans Alicia Sedillo and Debbie Ruiz went on Lobby Day visits on their own as part of their Hunger Justice Leaders training in 2010.

Sometimes We Do See the Legislators!
A meeting with Rep. Tom Udall
And did you know that I have lobbied with actor Beau Bridges in the 1990s? As a representative of the Hollywood-based End Hunger Network, the actor joined us on a visit to Rep. Joe Skeen's office. The late Rep. Skeen, who at that time was chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, was present at the meeting--just so he could meet with our star anti-hunger advocate.

While it's easier to meet with a member of the House than a senator, we've had some luck in having the legislators from both houses of Congress present at the meetings. Sen. Jeff Bingaman sat in a couple of times in my meetings with Randy Soderquist and Jeffrey Phan, but this was before he rose to chair or minority leader of the Energy Committee. It helped to have a great relationship with Sen. Bingaman's office. Rep. Heather Wilson and Rep. Tom Udall met with me or with our delegation to discuss the issues directly.

A meeting with Rep. Heather Wilson in 2004
We have also seen Sen. Pete Domenici, Rep. Martin Heinrich, and Rep. Harry Teague in Washington, and have  chatted with Sen. Tom Udall at a couple of his constituent coffees. Rep. Steve Schiff showed up at the Lobby Day reception in 1994 (as did Sen. Bingaman).

I will be going on my Lobby Day visits solo this year. A big reason is that there is no National Gathering (normally held every other year), to draw New Mexicans to Washington this year. I will be Washington for the Bread board meeting, and Lobby Day has always been a big part of our activities in June.

And although I will be in Washington by myself,  I urge other Bread members in New Mexico to join me in advocacy through a Virtual Lobby Day by phone or social media. This is what we did last year, and I suspect we will do something similar this year. We will also check out the possibility of visits to local offices. Stay tuned for more details on both these options in Part 2 of Lobby Day 2015. 

No comments: