Monday, December 31, 2007

‘Lobbyists are an essential part of our democratic process’ -- Arizona Capitol Times, November 16, 2007

Employment 101 Interview with Farrell Quinlan, President of In the Arena Public Affairs, Inc.

What was your first job?

Construction laborer for a home builder in my hometown of Rutland, Vermont.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I enjoy the contest of ideas in the media, political campaigns and among policymakers. Lobbying and public affairs consulting is probably the only profession that allows me to indulge my passion for history, politics and competition while still being able to pay the bills.

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Staying current on all of the devel­opments in the issue areas I need to track for current clients as well as the ones I need to track for future clients I’d like to bring on. There is so much in­formation available. It is a real art to know how to best convey the relevant information to policymakers or to the public through the media.

What is the most misunder­stood part of your job?

There’s a reason “special interests” are called special; everybody’s issue or concern is special to them. Lobbyists are an essential part of our democratic proc­ess. They become more necessary the more gov­ernment interferes in the free market and private matters. If re­formers want to reduce the influence of lobbyists, they should start with loosening govern­ment’s regulatory grip and halting its am­bitions of social engineering through the tax code.

Any tips on handling pushy press people?

You can never forget that, ultimately, reporters are merely a conduit to reaching a larger audience for your message. “Pushy” or not, the media have a job to do and it’s my responsibility to offer them accurate, timely and concise information from my side of the issue. The more successful I am at accomplishing that, the more productive and positive my relationship will be with the media.

As a student of history and politics, who do you see as history’s best politician, greatest com­mu­nicator and most inspirational leader?

History’s best pure politician was probably Augustus, the first emperor of Rome. During his remarkable 58-year career, he success­fully tamed Rome’s brutal and murderous political cul­ture and ef­fectively established a 250-year peace in Europe. For greatest com­municator, I propose Pope John Paul II. His simple admonition to “be not afraid” to those suffering under Commu­nism’s yoke was indispensable to bringing an end to that sad, bizarre chapter of hu­man history. I believe history’s most inspi­rational leader was Abra­ham Lincoln. He fulfilled America’s founding ideals by freeing the slaves, demonstrated unequaled skill and resolve in fighting to pre­serve the Union and, in the end, gave his life for his country and the cause of human dignity.

Not too long ago, you moved from working for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry to heading up your own firm. What advice would you give to someone who wants to do the same?

Moving from a member/association bearing at the Arizona Chamber to a client/consultant approach now is natural in some ways and wholly unnatural in others. I am fortunate to partner with a dynamic PR and advertising firm called PRfect Media, headed by John Hernandez and Ron Meritt. Their firm didn’t have a gov­ern­ment relations and lobbying practice and I didn’t yet have the necessary administrative and “business know-how” skills to be successful on my own. Our growing In the Arena Public Affairs partnership has allowed me to focus on my strengths, like provid­ing high quality client services, while in­creasing the range of services both entities can offer their cli­ents. It’s a true win-win for both firms.

What best prepared you for being a political consultant?

I truly enjoy the ins-and-outs of public policy development and the messy, though always fasci­nating, politics that accom­pany it. I went to college at the George Washington University in Washing­ton, D.C. to be a witness at the (Reagan) Revolu­tion and see where I might contribute. Twenty years later I’m still engag­ing in dorm room-style bull sessions, only now I do it with the media and with those who can actually make those ideas a real­ity. It’s a cliché because it’s true; do what you love and you’ll never “work at a job” again.

Any other advice or thoughts?

I’ve come to realize that those who believe “the political is per­sonal” are the ones who make life frustrating. On the Right and Left, the people who conflate the two are usually the most extreme, un­persuasive and, on a personal level, the most angry and unhappy. My encounter with colon cancer, radiation treat­ments and chemotherapy in 2006 taught me that what happens in politics is not nearly as im­portant as what happens in your home and with your family and friends. The challenge is to stay en­gaged with our political and civic institutions so “the political is personal” crowd doesn’t monopolize the debate.

No comments: