Do you see yourself lunching at Maison Blanche with Mike Deaver and it's your beeper that goes off first? Do you imagine holding intimate dinner parties at which Ted Kennedy is seen dishing out the meat loaf to the British ambassador? Do you fantasize about dispensing campaign advice to Walter Mondale ("Fritz, take my word for it, the New Hampshire primary is crucial")?
Do you, then, want to be a lobbyist? Do you want a six-figure income and the warm feeling of accomplishment that comes with creating a billion-dollar tax loophole? No wonder that on college campuses these days lobbying for Exxon ranks right up there with testing computer games for Atari.
It used to be that congressional candidates ran for office because they wanted to be a crusading senator like Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." Now though, one suspects some newly elected members of the congressional class of '82 don't want to be in Congress at all. Their goal may be to become former senators and House members so they can get rich lobbying their old colleagues.
But Congress is not the only place for would-be influence peddlers who want to get their tickets punched -- White House experience does quite nicely. Jimmy Carter hadn't finished unpacking down in Plains before such key advisers as Robert Strauss and Anne Wexler were hanging out their shingles as lobbyists.
Some Reagan team members already seem eager to get away from the Oval Office. Lyn Nofziger lasted just a year before becoming a lobbyist. Mike Deaver anguishes about the indignity of living on a government salary. But the all-time young-man-in- a-hurry award has to go to Stan Anderson, who went directly from the Reagan transition team to a lucrative practice as a lawyer-lobbyist.
Sure, it's disheartening to watch political big-shots hogging all the good lobbying jobs. But don't get discouraged. Even in these tough economic times, any schlump can connive his way to the top. It'll take a few years of hard work, but you'll be young enough to enjoy your new house in Spring Valley.
Here's how to get your own regular table at Mel Krupin's:
The Right Rolodex
In L.A., people are judged by their cars. In Washington, it's the heft of your Rolodex. The proper Rolodex should be roughly the size of a Honda Civic. Carry it with you everywhere. This will soon give rise to the ultimate Washington compliment: "He carries a heavy Rolodex."
A Language Lesson
Would-be lobbyists need to add just one word to their vocabulary: "access," as in "I can't guarantee you Howard Baker's vote, but I can get you access." Access means you can get through to Baker without having to buttonhole him outside the livestock exhibit at the Murfreesboro County Fair.
Pick an Issue
Lyn Nofziger can be a generalist because Ronald Reagan returns his phone calls. Unfortunately, you're still at the stage where even Dial-a-Prayer puts you on hold. So specialize: Pick an issue where lots of big corporations (each with their own teams of lobbyists) will be squabbling with each other in Congress for years.
Say you've picked the water crisis as the issue that will keep you in expense-account lunches through the '80s. Work for someone like Rep. Wes Watkins (D-Okla.). Never heard of him? Great -- there won't be as much competition for a job on his staff. Watkins just happens to be the No. 6 Democrat on the water subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. With any luck, in a few years, Watkins could move up to subcommittee chairman. You could eventually have access to the water baron of Congress.
Life with the Boss
Don't be discouraged if your first job with Watkins involves answering the phone or tracking down lost Social Security checks. Remember Hill & Knowlton wasn't built in a day. Think water. Volunteer to fill Watkins' water glass at all subcommittee hearings. Then it will always be easy to lean forward and whisper during a crucial hearing, "Demand to know why the government is doing nothing about the water crisis. It'll get you headlines." Before long Watkins may put you in charge of all water-related issues.
Go to Law School
You'll have time on your hands as Watkins inches up the seniority ladder. Enroll in law school at night. Don't worry about grades, the law review or not having a Yale degree. Most lobbyists are lawyers for one simple reason: Clients like hiding their lobbying expenses under the heading of legal fees.
Gunfighters put notches on their Colt 45s. Lobbyists put autographed pictures of politicians on their office walls. The reason is the same in both cases -- cheap advertising. A picture of you and George Bush each wearing Indian war-bonnets tells a potential client that you have great access to Bush. While working on Capitol Hill, you should get a chance to be photographed with virtually everyone.
Stick with It
Don't jump ship as soon as Watkins hits the big time. Spend a year as staff director of the water subcommittee. Let it be known around Capitol Hill that you're the man who carries Watkins' water. Be especially helpful to corporations and rich landowners. They're your future clients.
Before you open your own law offices on K Street, take a little time to master this final lesson.
Bribery is when you dress up as an Arab sheik and offer a senator money in exchange for his vote. That's illegal. Getting access is different. It can involve handing over a campaign check and mentioning casually, "A client of mine has a little problem that I'd like to come talk to you about." That is legal. The distinction has kept many lobbyists out of Allenwood.