When Judy Goldberg quit her job as a lobbyist for Common Cause to take up a similar assignment for the American Civil Liberties Union, some members of the conservative Virginia General Assembly couldn't keep from snickering.
"A couple of members actually said they didn't think I could have found an organization to work for that was worse than Common Cause -- but that I had," says Goldberg.
Her six years of prodding the tradition-bound legislature toward stronger financial disclosure and conflict-of-interest legislation on behalf of Common Cause hardly won her any popularity contests here. Merely the words "Common Cause" evokes snarls from many lawmakers.
The views of the ACLU, another citizens group, is not winning her much acclaim either. "There will be times when I have to testify against God, for drugs, and against community safety all in the same day," says the 36-year-old Goldberg.
She finds herself taking those stands by opposing any legislation the ACLU believes might violate someone's civil rights or jeopardize the separation of church and state.
Just the idea of a paid lobbyist fighting for ideas rather than specific economic gains is difficult for some members of the assembly to comprehend. There, for instance was the time that Goldberg, one of the few women lobbyists here, clashed with Del. Claude V. Swanson, a Democrat from Virginia's conservative Southside.
The legislator complained that Goldberg first challenged a judgeship nomination from his area and now was fighting a bill promoting voluntary school prayers. Staring at her quizzically, Swanson asked" "What are you for?"
"The Constitution," Goldberg snapped back. And being for the Constitution in a state legislature that has yet to ratify an amendment for the direct election of U.S. senators isn't one of the easiest jobs in Richmond.
While other lobbyists wine and dine lawmakers over a single bill, Goldberg's employers expressly forbid such practices. "I don't think I've ever paid for anyone's lunch," says Goldber, who also allows she has yet to venutre inside Richmond's exclusive Commonwealth Club, scene of much legislative wheeling and dealing.
As the mother of two small schoolage children, she has to juggle her work schedule whenever either of her children is sick. While other lobbyists are attending the numerous evening legislative receptions held here, Goldberg can be found cooking dinner for her husband in suburban Chesterfield County.
"I don't have a lot of 'ins' with the legislators," says Goldberg. "I can't just say, 'Hey, kill this bill for me.' I have to talk to every member of a committee, sometimes two or three times."
Goldberg, who is not an attorney, earns about $2,000 for lobbying during the eight-week session. She finds her work a lot tougher this year since she is tracking about 70 separate bills for the ACLU in contrast to the 20 or so she followed for Common Cause.
Still, with Common Cause she was always pushing for passage of new legislation. Her ACLU job is more often to kill new measures, an admittedly simpler task in Richmond. "It's easier to get legislators to stick with the devil they know" than to enact new laws, Goldberg says.
Like the other lobbyists, Goldberg stalks the halls of the state Capitol, corralling lawmakers at the snack bar or snatching them for quick discussions when they come off the floor or out of committees.
"I'll start off the day with a list of 20 legislators to see and maybe I'll be lucky and get to see six or eight of them," she says. "Sometimes, I feel like they are my prey."
Since Goldberg comes armed with facts and figures to buttress her arguments, many legislators say she is a refreshing change from traditional lobbyists.
"She gave Common Cause a credibility in the legislature it did not have before," says state Sen. Frederick C. Boucher (D-Washington). "When she came on board, it started getting bills passed."
Boucher says he appreciates the way Goldberg "does here homework" on bills. "She carries around a briefcase full of accurate information and material that can be very helpful, and she gets a good audience when she testifies."
But Goldberg, he says, "definitely has her work cut out for her with the ACLU," an organization Boucher says is regarded by many legislators less favorably than Common Cause. "This is conservative old Virignia, and the General Assembly is reluctant to get involved with the kind of federal political issues and constitutional liberties the ACLU likes to protect."
The assembly's eagerness to pass a bill restricting the sale of drug paraphenalia in so-called "head" shops is a case in point, Boucher argues. Using information supplied by the ACLU, Boucher spoke against the measure on the Senate floor last week, protesting that it was unconstitutional.
Though a similar law in another state has already been struck down, most Virginia legislators have decided to approve the bill and let the courts handle the issue.
Goldberg's ACLU duties this session have pitted her against Boucher's bill to revamp the state's sexual assault laws. She has been trying to strike out sections the ACLU thinks would hurt a defendant's due process rights in a trial.
To Goldberg, consistency on constitutional issues is a must. It explains her opposition to school prayer and her fight to stop a bill that would have made it easier for medical officers to remove or "harvest" the pituitary glands of the dead for transplant purposes without permission from the next of kin.
Goldberg's critics say she is not the first to advocate causes that are not in the mainstream of Virginia politics, and many question her tactics.
"She can be very persistent, and sometimes the persistence gets in the way of her success," says Del. Gerald L. Baliles (D-Richomnd). "She doesn't always have a sense of time about when to push and when not to."
Even Goldberg concedes that Common Cause didn't make many friends in the legislature when she started criticizing the voting records of assembly members and comparing them to their campaign promises. Still she thinks she helped guide the organization "down the long road from being a really annoying pest to being a resource."
Goldberg's own road to becoming a lobbyist had a lot of twists and turns to it. She ignored politics in college and didn't get "hooked" on government until Watergate. That prompted her to join Common Cause and begin working as a researcher. Later she became its chief lobbyist and finally its Virginia Director.
"i used to sit in those committee hearings in the beginning and get so angry and frustrated," says Goldberg. The more conservative members "didn't even bother to talk to me," and one who did, once asked, "How can someone so nice be so wrong."
Goldberg says she eventually learned what she calls one of the major rules for a Richmond lobbyist; "Don't get mad." Legislators get mad often, she says, "but they have the votes." Now she allows them "to be just as fervent in their opinions as I am in mine."