Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Kennedy gives tips about winning friends in politics

When a Kennedy gives advice about politics, you have to take notice.

Edward M. Kennedy, Jr., the son of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and president of Marwood Group, gave a primer on how to be a lobbyist/advocate at a health care industry conference in Orlando in mid-May.

Despite the influence of money and high powered lobbyists in today’s politics, Kennedy said a commitment to an issue dispels the need to costly lobbyists to make your case to legislators. That should not be confused with eschewing politics, since any organization should have a political strategy.

“What really matters is authenticity. You can hire a slick consultant, but there is no substitute on being able to speak on your own behalf or for members of your group,” Kennedy said.

A simple letter to your local legislators or an invitation for coffee at your office could be all that is needed to get the ball rolling.

“Politicians love to look like they are doing something,” Kennedy said half in jest. “They love to be seen and they love to have things to do.”

“Having a coffee session with voters or helping them (the official) get a picture in the paper is another way you can be helpful without writing a big check,” added Kennedy, whose brother is a Congressman from Rhode Island.

Ideally, Kennedy said you want to be in the position of becoming your legislator’s unofficial “cabinet” to comment on issues that are of particular interest. Kennedy said it is impossible for legislative offices to become experts on every single issue and it is important to become part of your local office’s rolodex so they call you for input, making it important to become friendly with your local legislators’ staff.

One word of advice Kennedy provided was that you should not be insulted if your legislator has arranged for a bright, 23-year-old legislative aide to listen to your concerns.

“They are the ones really running our government.”