Monday, November 30, 2015

Reflection or what took so long?

Thanksgiving always brings a flood of memories.  In this respect I guess I am no different for many many others.  I've got the family memories, both as a kid (my mother could not make a gravy to save her life) and as an adult with my own children to torture at the dinner table.  But since 2006 Thanksgiving day has always been a day when I take 10 minutes by myself, in my favorite chair and reflect on what the future holds.

It started in 2006 when I realized that Bruno, Silver and Spitzer were determined to end my career in government.  I was positive they had installed Paul Shechtman as Chairman of the old Lobby Commission to fire me.  And I knew he was smart enough to pull it off.  As I sat in my chair that Thanksgiving, kids and family having a wonderful meal with lots of noise and laughter, I could not have been more depressed.  I was absolutely certain I would never be able to earn the kind of living that would let us have a happy thanksgiving again (some dark shit huh?).

As it turned out I was able to outmaneuver Shechtman (he ended up being smart but a little wimpy in the PR department) and he resigned but Spitzer, Silver and Bruno still managed to get me out of government by abolishing the Lobby Commission and creating a brand new ethics agency that after years of turmoil, incompetence and disgrace turned into JJOKE and we know how well that has worked.  Karma caught up with Spitzer, Bruno and Silver in the form of indictments, trials and in Spitzer's case complete public humiliation  (that's the narcissist in me talking).  And by the time Thanksgiving 2007 rolled around I was back in that chair with an income that had doubled in the 2 months since I packed my bags at the Lobby Commission and a positive attitude that life was oh so much better in the private sector.  I still take 10 minutes every Thanksgiving to sit in that chair and reflect.  The chair is a little worse for wear but I'm going to always keep it as a reminder and I am secure in the knowledge that no matter what the powers to be in government throw at me in the future I can deal with it and thrive (that's what gives me that attitude that people that don't know me call arrogance).  This year was a little different though.

Instead of reliving the past and enjoying my good fortune and the misery of those that tried to harm me (and my family by extension) I thought about why government continues to think they solve the past problem by changing existing laws, rules or procedures in reaction to a recent event instead of proactively thinking about what will happen next and stopping it.  I noticed Cuomo is beefing up security at planned parenthood clinics as a RESULT of recent violence.  Why did it take recent violence to react?  The good government groups are calling for new ethics legislation as a RESULT of recent federal corruption cases. Why did it take recent corruption to react?  Every school shooting brings more calls for gun control. Wouldn't it be great if these politicians and groups could think about and tell us what is likely to happen before the event?  That would be useful.

It was with that thought that I met with JJOKE (at their request) to provide my insight into their most recent draft opinion on consultants.  An opinion prompted by the rise in power that was a RESULT of certain consultants being publicly identified as having perceived influence with unreported clients and politicians (most likely Berlin Rosen and Bill DiBlasio).  But rather than wait for the opinion to be published (which quite frankly will be a huge boon to my business) I offered my insight to help the opinion's author understand his own motivation in drafting it and the concomitant effect it will have on the regulated community and his own career.

I won't go into the legal realities of the opinion and it's enforceability (I'll leave that for paying clients) but I did discuss the motivation of JJOKE in issuing the draft.  If it's goal was to scare certain consultants into registering and disclosing their activity it will work but why use such a heavy hand?  You can acquire the same information and data by enforcement proceedings against lobbyists and clients that don't disclose their vendors on existing reports.  Every consultant involved in a lobbying effort, even the ones that sit mutely in meetings, is a lobbying expense that requires disclosure already.  I was told that certain consultants that "throw their weight around" are able to collect contingent fees and if they were registered they couldn't do that anymore.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  The prohibition against contingent fees has been the greatest single benefit to the lobbying community since politicians dim witted children.  If contingent fees were allowed every client would insist and every lobbyist would go bankrupt.  Lobbyists are successful about 10-15% of the time. (we ran the numbers at the old lobby commission do you think JJOKE has?)  Go ask personal injury lawyers that work on contingency if they could survive being successful on 10-15% of the cases they took.  Go ask the restaurants in town if they could stay open if only 10-15% of their customers were happy.  Ask the governor if his book publisher was happy with 10-15% of the governors books that were printed actually being sold.  And by the way if the folks at JJOKE understood the industry they would realize it's not contingent fees consultants make the money on, it's placing the ads, but this is what happens when government regulators without experience react instead of thinking ahead.

One last thought on contingent fees, much like source of funding, any client that wants to legally structure a contingent fee agreement need only give me a call. 

Every day is thanksgiving for me now that I've figured this game out.  But if the folks at JJOKE aren't careful they might need their own chair next thanksgiving to reflect on what happens when you react instead of thinking about future results.

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