Iman sheds light on the work of lobbyists

Parker Willis

Q: How did lobbyists get their names?

A: Lobbyists are not allowed in the chamber, so all of the business has to be done outside in the hall, or lobby. Originally in Washington D.C., business would be done in the hotel lobby of the Willard Hotel, so that’s how we got our title.

Q: What does a lobbyist do?

A: “I like to call myself a conduit of information, or a negotiator. It’s my job to get the person that knows the information to the person that’s making the decision, or helping craft the legislation. The legislators can’t know everything about every bill passed. So my job is to get those people that know those issues very well to the legislators.”

Q: How do you know who to talk to?

A: “The biggest part of my job is getting to know the people running for office while they’re still candidates. Go to fund raisers. Start building a relationship with those people before they even get to Jefferson City. So a huge part of my job is getting to know who those people are. Are they farmers? Are they teachers? Are they realtors? If you’re a former educator, when you come to Jefferson City you are probably going to be put on the education committee. And since I lobby for Missouri Southern it is very important to know who those people are.”

Q: What else do you do?

A: I have to read all of the pieces of legislation that get filed and know what issues I’m looking for. And working with legislators to craft bills and work out issues with other coalitions, so when things get rolling on the bill the legislators already know what the bill is about.

Q: Some people think lobbyists are just buying votes with dinners and stuff, is that true?

A: There are 197 legislators in the Capitol so if I had to take each one out to eat I’d weigh 500 pounds. When we take legislators to dinner it isn’t just to work our issues. We want to get to know them on a personal basis. So when a bill comes up I can walk in and feel more comfortable talking to that person. It’s not necessarily that I bought their vote by buying them lunch.

Q: How do you help specifically with the legislative process?

A: First you get a sponsor to introduce the bill. And if the bill needs an amendment, sometimes I help draft it. Then, the next key thing is to get the speaker of the House or the president pro tem of the Senate to assign your bill to a committee. Then after it makes it out of committee sometimes the lobbyist has to go back to the speaker to get it onto the floor calendar.