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  • I left a meeting between the Secretary of Commerce and the Secretary of Agriculture and my boss. The Secretaries went their separate ways; I stood with my boss on the steps as he smoked a cigarette and rehashed the meeting. Then the cigarette was gone and he left. I walked down the street to a steakhouse where I was meeting a lobbyist.

    (I wonder sometimes how I ended up doing this. I wear a jacket and tie enough days a week that it doesn’t even feel like playing dress-up any more, and we’re so deep in this legal mess that I’ve pretty much become a full-time paralegal. I manage lawyers and consultants whose time costs us more than $300 an hour. I wouldn’t recognize myself a year ago and I wonder if I’ve “sold out” or deferred certain dreams I’ve long dreamt (will they explode?). But then I realize that sometimes it’s fun. It makes me feel important.)

    The meeting had run late; she was sitting in a booth facing the door and stood up to shake my hand. This place is really good, she said after a waitress brought us ice water. The seats were black leather, the lighting dim. I ordered a beer and realized that I could order whatever I wanted on this menu and that The Lobbyist would smile as she paid for it and that I was hungry but did not want dinner because then I would have to spend that much more time talking to The Lobbyist.

    I got an appetizer and The Lobbyist got a salad and then I got another beer and we talked about the case and the other “issues” she’d worked. I told her about the farm, about the business, gave her an overview of the situation and the potential for wide-reaching precedent. The whole time she was very friendly, very personable, and tactfully direct about her billing structure and even suggested I talk to other lobbyists before making a decision.

    (The Lobbyist is cashing in on the net worth of her life's relationships, selling her ability to talk, selling who she knows, selling her knowledge of the game and the rules and the players, selling her understanding of the State (and of the state). Maybe this works because everyone is human and humans are, on some fundamental level, petty, and that is the foundation of politics. Maybe it works because the system has grown so bloated that people need to pay one person hundreds of dollars an hour to navigate the laws and pay someone else hundreds of dollars an hour to try to make new laws. Either way, Kafka would be proud. And for all the fun, it feels dirty.)

    When we finished, I told The Lobbyist that we have a filing deadline coming up but if she sent me her proposal I’d look it over. She agreed and paid the bill. We shook hands and left, each hungry.
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