Many Americans feel frustrated that Congress isn't responding to massive problems like climate change and don't know what to do to get their representatives to do something. Billy DeLancey swears that hiring a lobbyist is the most effective method to sway politicians compared to other methods like campaigning or public protesting.
DeLancey established Lobbyists 4 Good after witnessing Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign and how much money it was able to raise through small donors. So he decided on this system: People can submit a proposal for an issue. If the project receives $5,000 in donations within 100 days, he'll hire a lobbyist to take the issue to Capitol Hill for one month.
"Hiring the individuals who have the relationships is far more successful than simply giving money," DeLancey adds when discussing influencing members of Congress. "You must work the system of each office and develop those connections; there's just no alternative."
He was working late with Laura Reese, a vegan climate activist. She'd felt like she was "voting with [her] dollars" by purchasing plant-based meals instead of meat. But it didn't look like it was enough, especially because livestock farms produce so much greenhouse gas. So after coming across DeLancey on Reddit talking about Lobbyists 4 Good, Reese contacted him.
Reese originally wanted to end all agriculture subsidies, but the lobbyist they hired, Ron Young, said that was taking on too much. So instead, Young honed Reese's proposal down to a pilot program that would offer grants for farmers to switch from raising livestock to growing plants. Reese admits that she was "a little upset" at first that her idea had been changed, but DeLancey convinced her it was the best way to get congressional support.
"We're not trying to be idealistic," Reese says of their softened proposal. "We're trying to be practical."
Reese says that he's never been fond of the popular/mainstream approach. "It seems as if you're crazy when you try to get attention like that," Reese suggests. According to him, it would be more impactful and practical. At first, Washington was frustrating for Reese because he wasn't used to having one-on-one conversations with people in such settings. In their first encounter, in a congressional office, Reese was reminded that members of Congress may act only on issues within the purview of their committees and that she should adapt her appeals depending on that. "I went out after and was quite gloomy," she recalls. "And Billy said something to the effect of, 'That was an excellent meeting.' And I'm like, 'We're all going to die.'
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The incoming House majority leader has spoken with reporters about the difficulties of working together under a unified Republican government. He is not yet aware of the fractured party will be able to overcome these challenges. Young worked on a bill that would ban politicians from using their seats in Congress or other offices to enrich themselves directly through their office budgets, staff salaries, or any other means. They began working on it immediately after taking power to pass it before the 2018 mid-term elections. "It's going well," Young says when asked how they've been progressing toward passing legislation since becoming speaker. The pair met with several congressional offices and staff members throughout the process, some of which were encouraging. The young developed proposed legislation — which, yes, really is how bills are usually written - as he proved himself an expert in his field by drafting six articles for prominent legal publications over three years. Now he's looking for co-sponsors to pass it through Congress before next year's midterm election.
In a meeting, Oregon Rep. Earl Blumenauer seemed to agree with Reese's ideas; however, he noted the farm bill — which is massive legislation that Congress takes up every five years and contains many agricultural subsidies — had just passed in December. He asked Reese what she was doing with celebrity chefs, suggesting that it might be difficult to get Congress to act.
Although Reese wasn't ecstatic, DeLancey was more hopeful.
Getting the pilot program's theory approved by him in front of personnel allows DeLancey to go forward with legislation to make it a law, according to him.