RealJobs: Tom Sullivan

I am a lobbyist in Washington, DC.  Hopefully, through my blog postings, I can dispel some of the myths and misperceptions about lobbyists and the lobbying sector.  I am proud to serve as an advocate in Washington, DC for some great businesses and individuals.  My background is in small business and regulatory policy, so my small business clients, like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), are especially fun for me to work with.

Here is a picture of me with 2 remodelers who came to Washington last year from Ohio and Colorado to speak with their elected Members of Congress.

BC Career Blog With Remodelers in DC

I juggle several clients, ranging from a private equity business based in South Carolina (the law firm I work for is based in South Carolina), to Canadian energy companies (my boss, David Wilkins, is the former U.S. Ambassador to Canada), to small businesses.  So, there is really no “typical day.”  That is part of what keeps my job exciting.  There are days that take several weeks to plan like when a client is coming to Washington to meet with congressmen and senators and administration officials.  Those days are mapped out, but even after weeks of planning, last minute glitches and scheduling changes keep those days exciting.

The real fun of lobbying for me is not planning visits for clients to meet with Congress and the Administration.  I like strategizing with clients to get a law passed or to change the direction of regulatory policy.  When a strategy helps a client, is consistent with my own political and philosophical beliefs, and helps the people who I work with in Congress and in regulatory agencies, it makes the hard work worthwhile.  Those situations, “win/win/win” outcomes, are rare.  However, they do occur.

When I lobbied for the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), we worked with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to get small businesses out of trouble with a law (the Superfund law) that was designed to punish big polluters, not mom and pop restaurants that legally disposed of their food scraps in the local landfill.   EPA never really wanted to punish innocent small business owners, but the law was written in a way that trapped them in a legal web.  After a 6-year lobbying effort, Congress, EPA, and then newly-elected George W. Bush all agreed the law should be changed and it was.  The best reward from that successful lobbying effort was the hug I got from Barbara Williams who owned a small diner near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Keeping up with all the news, political information, and activity in Washington that may affect my clients takes up an enormous amount of time.  Also, working with coalitions to impact legislation takes up a large part of my week.  Strategy, information sharing, and coordination usually make up the agenda at those coalition meetings.  Of course, meetings with staff in agencies and in congress also consume a good deal of my time.  My office’s location, right at the base of Capitol Hill, helps with face to face meetings.  It is easy for me to get back and forth to the Hill.  Here is a picture of President Obama’s first inauguration that I took from my office’s balcony.

BC Career Blog Inaug 1-20-09

Yesterday was a pretty typical day in my work as a lobbyist.  My morning was spent making calls and e-mailing staffers in the House and the Senate to try and set up meetings for come clients who are traveling to Washington during the last week of February.  At lunch, I participated in a roundtable at the Wilson Center, a public policy organization established as the official memorial to Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States.  The event was titled, “Impact on Business: North American Energy Policy,” and my boss, former U.S. Ambassador to Canada, David Wilkins, regularly participates in those types of discussions.

After the policy roundtable, I took off my “energy expert” hat and put on my “financial expert” hat to attend a briefing by the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Richard Cordray.  The CFPB was established by the Dodd-Frank law and the new agency is issuing regulations that govern real estate transactions.  My client, the remodelers, are worried that CFPB regulations will tighten the credit squeeze and prevent their customers from starting new remodeling projects.  It was an interesting meeting, but the complexity of mortgage finance regulations can be overwhelming.  After typing up quick summaries of the meetings and returning calls and e-mails, I headed home for the best part of the day — seeing my 2 boys (ages 7 and 6) and spending time with the other lobbyist in my family, my wife.  Yes, we are a two lobbyist family

Here is a picture of the Sullivan family (with our Dog, Dunkin) at Mt. Vernon – which is a few miles down the road from where we live.

BC Career Bloggers Pic at Mt. Vernon with Family


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