Saturday, December 12, 2015

What I Did for Money

At lunch yesterday, Lynn told Betty Jo and me about the League of Women Voters' lobbying days in Tallahassee early next year. I said I had done my share of lobbying in my various jobs. I didn't like it much then, but at least I was getting paid for the effort. I will pass on this volunteer opportunity. 

Here is a sampling of my work with legislative bodies:

United States House of Representatives: I was in my  mid-20's, working for the Budget Director of the District of Columbia government. The city's budget was under Congressional control, as mandated by the Constitution. I spent many hours in the office of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for the District of Columbia, working on the transcript of the budget hearings. It was 1972, and no women were permitted as paid staff for the Committee. I was treated politely, but I think they disinfected the desk and chair I used after I left for the day.

Missouri State Legislature: I flew from Chicago to St. Louis the morning after an ice storm and nervously navigated my rental car along the slick highway to Jefferson City, the state capital. I had lunch with a legislator to ask for his support for legislation to authorize a new tax-exempt financing program. As he patted my thigh under the table, he told me he was on my side. I kept smiling. I was an investment banker; I had no shame.

New York State Legislature: As the head of the NY State housing and health care finance agency, I made regular trips to Albany with my legislative liaison. We always paid our respects to the most powerful Black member of the legislature. He started each meeting by noting that his ancestors had come to this country in chains. 

United States House of Representatives: It is now the late 1980's, and I am on a mission to win over a female staff member for Tip O'Neill's Appropriations Committee, who is threatening harm to tax-exempt financing for non-profit hospitals. Our regular lobbyist, a male, reports that he is making no progress. He and my male deputy think that I might have a better chance of success with a woman-to-woman approach. Of course, I get the job done.

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