This book details the experiences of an industry lobbyist as he progresses through a 26-year career in Washington “working the Hill.” Since this involves a great deal of walking, one burns a lot of “shoe leather,” hence the title. Each chapter describes the duties and experiences of each position the author had in his career. Following each chapter is a “Lessons Learned” that puts the organization he worked for into perspective as far as how it fits into the Washington milieu, as well as putting that organization into perspective on how things get done in Washington.
The author describes how Capitol Hill works behind the scenes, as he served in a legislative policy position for a junior Republican Member of the House. He then describes the internal operations of a congressional affairs shop at a major cabinet department. Finally, he describes how contacting works in a D.C. graduate school that resulted in his obtaining a lobbying job at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the granddaddy of all business lobbies.
The jam-packed five years at the Chamber allowed the author to learn the ways of the lobbyist and showed how major legislative vehicles are dealt with by the business community. Because of his efforts on one particular environmental legislation—air pollution—the author became a minor celebrity since his name appeared in many media outlets as a spokesman for the business community (known in D.C. as the “bully pulpit”). The author describes the public policy development process by the Chamber and the challenges involved in developing a policy for an organization representing such a diverse membership.
The author shows how networking furthers one’s career in Washington as he was able to parlay his low-paying, high-visibility position into a more lucrative slot with the association representing the domestic mining industry. After this tenure he worked his political contacts to obtain an appointment as the House lobbyist at the U.S Synthetic Fuels Corporation (SFC). The multiple failed attempts by the SFC to fund pioneering energy projects are described, together with the continual political and media attacks. The author got, in effect, a graduate education in preparing witnesses to appear before hostile congressional hearings, and his expertise and knowledge of the players saved many of his “clients” from disastrous results.
People in this town only talk about three things: who won the last primary, who won the last election, and who’s screwing whom.
A short tenure at the Energy Department was an eye-opener on how the bureaucracy really works (or doesn’t work) and after only eight months he returned to the private sector as the executive-branch liaison for the electric utility industry. However, his knowledge of the Hill still served him well as an attempt by Federal procurement agents to by-pass existing electric franchises caused him to seek and obtain appropriations language precluding money from being spent to implement such a program.
After two years with the utilities trade association, President George H.W. Bush was elected and the author again utilized his political contacts to obtain the post of Deputy Assistant Secretary for House Liaison at the Energy Department. A two-year action packed period involving sometimes ten departmental appearances a week on the Hill are described, along with the political and policy ramifications.
The final chapters involve the author’s participation as a “beltway bandit” supporting the Science and Technology office of the DOE nuclear clean up office, at that time, the largest assistant secretaryship in the Federal Government.