Wednesday, August 17, 2005

getting down with the politicians…

This week Seattle is host to the National Conference of State Legislatures' annual convention. Although the event is touted as an opportunity for legislatures to discuss common issues, namely how to get the national government off their backs on regulations surrounding the No Child Left Behind Act and Homeland Security, the reality is that this convention is no more then “my summer vacation in Seattle.”

I am not naive on the workings of government. I read the newspaper. I listen to the news. I am aware of the scandals that follow the relationship between lobbyists and politicians. But despite the news, I had never actually seen this “affair” take place. Last night I was privy to be part of the inner circle where this "schmoozapalooza", their words not mine, occurred.

A little background:

6045 people are registered for the convention. Around 2000 are legislatures or staff workers, the balance are lobbyists or business people (amateur lobbyists.)

A modest $1.3 million is being spent on entertainment which includes a Mariners game as well as a party at the Seattle Center.

Under the state ethics law, lawmakers are limited to accepting gifts of no more then $50. Two years ago the legislature passed an exemption in order to help cover the entertainment costs of this convention – Party On!

Back to last night … this week the focus of my job is to schmooz. Dinners, lunches, tours around Seattle and of course - BASEBALL! The purpose of all of this is to place my clients in positive situations while I work to influence them to act favorably toward my business. Duh…. It’s business. So, I was working last night in a suite at the Mariners’ game when in came a group of what appeared to be business men and “Soccer Moms” – helmet hair, matching sweater sets, not too thin and not too fat, smiles straight out of the kitchen. My first instinct was that these were not your typical sales and marketing women (a blog description for another time), nor were they “wives”. These women were part of the trend started by Patty Murray – these were a breed of the non-threatening female politician.

It is nice to see that women have gotten into the game. But, the way in which they floated from suite to suite last night – drinking wine, laughing at bad jokes, working the crowd – yuk. A part of me hoped female politicians would be that rare group of women who were able to move into a male dominated arena and play under a different set of rules. “If women ran the country,” as the saying goes, “things would be different.” “We would write laws based on what was best for the people.” The reality is that as women enter into government they quickly learn the personal benefits of playing the game and then proceed to play it with the advanced skills of manipulation learned by every women at a young age.

This type of behavior has been growing in the business world for the past 30 years. Originally people believed that as women entered into the workplace, cultures would change. Women would work together to create a more harmonized environment where their interests would be met. The reality is that the individual benefits offered by “the old boys club” are so strong, women who reach that level work to protect the “structure” with the same vigor as their male counterparts.

So, where does that leave us? I guess the question of equality is finally being answered. Men, you have nothing to worry about. We women do not want to change the rules which would favor us getting free stuff and lots of attention. In fact, if we can stay a minority group so that we receive a disproportional amount of attention and free stuff – great!

I am with you! Screw family benefits, which will costs corporations billions. Childcare in the workplace, are you kidding me? Women’s health issues, medical research, you are absolutely right – not profitable at this time, how about more Viagra. Oh, and by the way, can you poor me another glass of chardonnay.

Before last night, if you had asked me, I would have said "I schmooze because I have to in order to get my job done." But now, I think I have had my last glass of chardonnay.

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