Reps of two of the most hated professions came together this week to feast on steak from the Palm, drink bourbon, beer, wine, and martinis and talk candidly about the realities of lobbying.
Hosted by HuffPost White House correspondent and “Morning Joe (or Jew)” regular Sam Stein, participants included Quinn Gillespie & Associate’s John Feehery and Jim Manley as well as lobbyist Heather Podesta and HuffPost Washington Bureau Chief Ryan Grim.
While Podesta repeatedly flips her long silver bangs and makes fun of the many white, heavyset men in Washington, Feehery (white and ahem, of impressive heft) gradually offers a rundown of everything he eats. Think six inch sandwiches from Subway. Meanwhile, the liquor flows.
Asks Sam Stein, “What’s the most insane client request you’ve ever received?”
“HA!” belts out Feehery, who then seems to have to think of his answer and doesn’t come up with one. He’s saved by Podesta, who shares that a client once phoned her at 12:30 a.m. during White House Correspondents’ Dinner weekend for a movie actress’s phone number. The audacity. “Let’s just say I take care of my clients,” she said coyly, refusing to name the client or the actress.
“It’s all about credibility,” said Feehery, mentioning the Jack Abramaoff scandal as well news journalists who venture into opinion journalism. “If you lose credibility it’s hard to get it back.”
“It’s easy to bash or mischaracterize it, but it is substantive, creative work,” said Podesta. “I am a proud lobbyist.”
Some fun facts on Podesta: She often dines at Tosca and doesn’t always order the same thing. “I like to spice it up,” she says. She’s in bed at 11:30 p.m. and up by 6 a.m. Stein quickly adds up that this means she gets seven and a half hours of sleep (it’s actually 6.5). Her big piece of advice: If you’re a bullshitter, you won’t succeed as a lobbyist.
Martinis and steaks are brought in at the 13:45 mark to make the lobbyists feel at home.
In terms of being influenced by the petite filets and booze, Feehery says, “Oh it’s working. I’m going to read the Huffington Post at least twice more.”