Am I the Next Jack Abramoff?
In which I discover that any idiot—even me—can be a Washington lobbyist.
He told me I should immediately go to Rep. Tom Lantos' office: "Rep. Lantos is the number-one pet guy in the House." The Lantos people were working on legislation to require that in the event of a forced evacuation like that of Hurricane Katrina, the government must have in place a rescue plan for pets. "Do you have a legislative arm?" at SNOP, he asked me. Now it was my turn to laugh. Even though I didn't, he said I could work with Lantos' people to incorporate my legislation early into his bill. That way it would be very hard to strip out later.
I couldn't wait to finish my last appointment—at Rep. Van Hollen's office—so I could contact the Lantos people and actually get some action on SNOP.
When I made my appointment with Van Hollen's legislative person, though he was impeccably polite, I could tell he thought meeting with SNOP was a waste of time. He came to greet me in the reception area and said we could conduct our meeting right there. Unlike everyone else I met, Van Hollen's guy was not young and sleek and gelled. He looked to be in his late 40s, rumpled and bearded, wearing casual-Friday jeans and sneakers. He had the air of someone who has listened to the ideas of more than his share of constituent nuts.
He mentioned he had a daughter, so I gave him an extra puppy to take home to her. Then I started on my now-polished pitch. I barely got it out when he interrupted to tell me there was a serious problem with my organization's goal: It was unconstitutional.
"I don't think there's a national legislative fix for this," he said. He said laws to spay and neuter animals were a matter for the states. For one thing, I had no enforcement mechanism for states that refused to comply. "A lot of people want the congressman to introduce things," he said. "A lot of [those] things are not federal issues."
OK, so there was a technical glitch about the Constitution. I quickly tried to recover, mentioning the congressman's support for bowel issues and asking if I could get something like that—a bill asking for more funding for spay and neuter research. Or how about a national spay-and-neuter month?
He said groups like such recognition because it helps with advertising and fund raising. But for me to do that, he said, while waving my SNOP leave-behind, "This has to become a viable organization." But why start my own group, he asked—why not just work with one of the existing animal-welfare organizations? Then he stood up and said he had another meeting. Maybe he could see in my eyes that he had just euthanized SNOP and my career as a lobbyist was over. Maybe he didn't want to leave me bereft. He smiled, held up a puppy, and said, "I like the Band-Aid. That's a nice touch."