The Podestas Face Tough Questions About Lobbying

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Why, Ron Brownstein asks, do so many people feel that no one is speaking for them when, as Tony Podesta says, "everyone has a lobbyist?" 

What do lobbyists add in an era "when the color of a jersey seems to be dispositive" on an issue?   Podesta and wife Heather Podesta tried to answer on behalf of their profession.  They struggled a bit to move beyond the usual: lobbyists provide expertize and information. And everyone is an interest and is represented. So they say. 

Brownstein was politely relentless. 

So what actually happens when lobbyists are in a room with a heavy?
Washington Ideas Forum
"Well, it depends on what the issue is but with any meeting with an office, you have to make it relevant to who you're meeting with. At this time, talking about jobs and what's happening in the district and making it as local as possible ... explaining the issue and frame it as why that it is important," said Heather Podesta.





Brownstein switched gears: Isn't it true that lobbyists are most powerful when the interest they're arguing is narrow?

Not necessarily, said Tony Podesta. He bragged that he helped persuade President Clinton to veto an official secrets act even though his administration supported it.

"But in most cases are you being hired by people to shape the overall direction of the policy or to shape the implementation of it?" asked Brownstein.

Podesta says: "Almost always the former."  Brownstein seemed skeptical. 

"People pay a lot of money for lobbyists," Brownstein noted.

"Not enough," Podesta quipped.

How will the world of these Democrats change when Republicans take over?

"It'll change a little bit. People will be different. You end up with different people and different role," said Tony.

"You have a Democratic White House. I think the Senate stays in Democratic hands. I think the House stays Democratic. Even if the House flips, you need Democrats who know how Washington work," says Heather.


Full session below

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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