Life of the Political Lobbyist – Part 1


One of the things I was most proud of during my time at Microsoft was my involvement with the Microsoft Political Action Committee (MSPAC).  I know that there are many, if not most people in the United States who cringe at the very idea of being associated withe a PAC.  It connotates some type of sleazy late night political meeting that is somehow illegal.  It means dollars spent to buy off politicians.  It means high-priced entertainment to buy and bribe people of influence.  It’s a Hollywood love story.  Though I am sure some of that goes on in reality it is not quite that sexy, but it’s not far from the truth. so read on and enjoy.

It started with a simple enough event.  Patrick Kennedy was coming to campus and being someone who is interested in politics it seemed like a fun thing to do during lunch.  I mean he’s a Kennedy!!?  Plus for those who do not know I am a huge Robert F Kennedy fan so that chance to see and hear someone who is related to him was too much to pass up.  the event was at the conference center on Microsoft’s campus and was sparsely attended.  Less than 50 people came.  I have to admit Patrick was less than impressive.  He started off fine.  He was here to listen and learn, but then he went off on the Republican led Congress in a very partisan manner.  Don’t get me wrong I tend to lean left in a lot of my views however at the end of the day I want members of both aisles to come together and develop solutions to the nations problems.  Unfortunately we get stuck with ideology. 

As I got more involved I actually got to meet members of government rather than just listen to them.  One of the first was the dynamic couple James Carville and Mary Matalin.   One of the oddest couples in US Political history.  She an advisor to George Bush Sr and Jr as well as Vice President Dick Cheney.  He the architect of Bill Clinton’s 1992 successful campaign.  They have a typical little spiel they do.  She gets up and talks politics while taking heavy hit sat her husband and his “bizarre” rock star status (very funny stuff).  Het get sup and tells you about his views and mentions at least ten times he is a Cajun from Louisiana.  After they spoke some of the elite members of the MSPAC got the opportunity to meet them.  We went up some stairs to what is more or less a loft and waited for them.  As they came up the stairs it became very apparent we had a fashion train wreck.  When they spoke in the conference center you did not notice because they were separate on stage.  However walking up the stair she was in a nice light soft green dress with elegant jewelry.  James however was in khaki’s, with a white shirt, a dark forest green blazer and a loud plaid tie with bright yellow and green highlights.  Mary as she approached the top just looked at everyone and said “Do we clash?  I think we clash?”.  Yes you did.  We had a chance to chat with them a nd get photo’s.  They were both very nice.  At eth time James was interested in what was (or was not) happening with Gary Locke.  Mary mentioned that Bill Maher was “not all there”.  I only mention that because when I met them again a couple of years later she brought that up again.   Next time I meet her I intend to ask her why she says thinks he has a potential mental stability issue.

In 2004 as she was trying to gain re-election to the Senate, Patti Murray.  It is interesting as I remember Patty Murray when she first  ran for office in 1992 as “the mom in sneakers” campaign.  It seemed unlikely at the time she would be a 4 term Senator.  But persevered she has.  I think there is an appeal with non-traditional backgrounds (Dave Reichert – the sheriff in the congressional 8th district is another good example).  Like this past election the 2004 campaign was a Republican year and the Democrats were playing defense across the country.  It was time to bring in the heavy hitters to help the campaign.   At that time one of the big political rock stars was Hilary Clinton.  When she attended the room was packed to capacity. She entered complete with secret service and lot s of applause.   She went onto speak for  over 30 minutes.  Primarily about the Iraq war.  The common theme by Democrats at the time was the other side of the aisle did not listen. Don Rumsfeld (quoting Don, “We know what we know, we don’t know what we don’t know, we know we don’t know”) does not tell the whole truth and deflects at every turn.  Finally she concluded about the situation in Iraq, “We started it, we own it”.  The thing about Hilary Clinton is everyone has an opinion.  Some love her, some hate her.  But there is a reason she ran for President, she is damn smart.

Her opponent at the time was Congressman George Neathercutt.  His claim to fame is in 1994 he upset then speaker of the house Tom Foley in the congressional 5th district in the  slaughter of the Democrats that mid-term elections..  He was going to try to do it again by taking on Senator Murray.  He came to campus and the room may have had 50-75 people.  It was in my opinion one of the oddest talks I heard during my time with the PAC.  At the time one of the news stories was a clip from capitol hill with out other Senator, Maria Cantwell having a spat with Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (whom Neathercutt used to work for). Neathercutt talked a lot about his previous work with Senator Stevens.  How he would mend fences etc…What I thought odd was though Senator Stevens may have been popular with hard-core republicans, however  I don’t think overall he was that popular in Washington state as he was the old-time politician in the pocket of big oil that people despised.  Not to mention every moment wasted on this topic was a free day for Senator Murray to focus on issues that mattered.  Neathercutt was also an eastern Washington guy, which is tough in a state dominated by the west side of the Cascades.  In the end Murray won re-election easily in what was otherwise a big season for Republicans.

There is a lot more to say on this era of my life, but I leave at this today as there are a few more chapters to go.

Good Night and Good Luck.

Hans Henrik Hoffmann November 16th, 2010

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2 thoughts on “Life of the Political Lobbyist – Part 1

  1. Hans, if you enjoyed lobbying I urge you to get involved at your kids’ PTA. Every PTA has a Legislative Rep, and I bet you would be outstanding. We interact more with our State Legislators than with the national crowd. It’s also a wonderful way to meet people.

    If you want to get a taste of what we do, visit http://www.wastatepta.org/advocacy/index.html and poke around.

    Audrey

    1. Audrey,

      Thanks – my wife has done a lot of the PTA stuff and our school I know had one person involved. I will visit the link as I think I would be interested in getting more involved in education at the state and local level, especially afer all the layoffs that happened a few years ago.

      Thanks,

      Hans

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