Alumnus Robert Efrus tried to dispel the bad reputation that can come with being a power lobbyist in Washington as he described his job to students Thursday night.
Efrus, vice president of the D.C. lobbying firm The Implementation Group, encouraged students to consider the industry and listed specific paths to become a lobbyist and skills that would put prospective applicants ahead of the pack. The speaker also addressed recent scandals and the effect they have had on the industry.
“(Lobbying) is a very well established profession and it’s one that’s not going to go away,” Efrus said Thursday night. “Despite these scandals, the lobbying profession and the role it supports. is protected by the constitution of the United States.”
Good lobbyists, Efrus said, present both sides of an issue and are “honest brokers.” Lobbyists who misrepresent the issues they advocate do not, according to Efrus, last long in the profession.
According to Efrus, there are over 30,000 lobbyists in Washington alone and he presented the profession as a multi-faceted one where lobbyists alternate between roles as advocate, sales person, analyst, relationship builder, planner and entertainer.
Additionally, good lobbyists must be well spoken, experienced, knowledgeable, persuasive and able to keep their egos in check.
Efrus underscored the importance of remaining centered and controlling ego, interpreting recent scandals and the conduct of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff as “ego gone unchecked”.
Though the address presented many different routes available to follow in Efrus’ footsteps, he said the best way to break into the field is through unpaid internships, particularly on Capitol Hill and in political campaigns.
“The unpaid internship is a huge secret weapon,” Efrus stated. “And many careers in this town have been made through (internships during) presidential campaigns.”
At times more important than personal convictions, money, according to Efrus, is essential to the political process.
“The number one objective of members of Congress is to get reelected, (thus money) is the mother’s milk of politics,” Efrus said, adding that “the political process is like making sausage; you really don’t want to know the details.”
The lobbyist also noted that a high profile senator may need to raise upwards of $25,000 to $50,000 everyday to cover the costs of reelection. He said in turn lobbyists themselves make “very, very, very significant dollars.”
Lobbyists are hired by foreign nations, private corporations, Non-Government Organizations as well as Universities and work on a broad spectrum of issues including health care, education and government subsides and the awarding of government contracts, he said.
Efrus’ audience was made up primarily of undergraduates, though graduate students, faculty members, and professionals were also present.
Freshman Tobin Van Ostern attended the speech.
“It was interesting to see the other perspective on lobbying,” Van Ostern said. “Political pundits always seem to show them as the bad guys, but they are a pretty vital part of the whole (democratic) process.”
Sammy Greene, also a freshman, was not as convinced.
“The whole process seems pretty flawed,” he said, “Political power is in the hands of those with money and lobbyists facilitate that.”
Efrus completed both his master’s degree and his BA at GW in 1982. Since then he has interned at NASA, worked on Capital Hill and at a numerous obbying firms in D.C.
Efrus’ speech, entitled “How do I become a Power Lobbyist,” was sponsored by the University’s Career Center and is part of an ongoing monthly lecture series titled “How do I become a. (insert interesting profession).”