Daily English
Cultural English
Practical English

0912 Working as a Lobbyist

访问量:
Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 912 – Working as a Lobbyist.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 912. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Our website is ESLPod.com. Go there and download a Learning Guide for this episode.

This episode is a dialogue between Cody and Jada about someone who works to try to influence public policy. Let’s get started.

[start of dialog]

Cody: You’re not the kind of person I would expect to work as a lobbyist.

Jada: Why not?

Cody: I picture lobbyists as being kind of pushy and corrupt, using underhanded tactics.

Jada: It’s not like that at all, at least not for me. I just use my powers of persuasion to help my clients.

Cody: So what do you do exactly?

Jada: I meet with legislators and try to sway them to support laws that are favorable to the people and companies I represent, and to discourage them from voting for laws that aren’t.

Cody: You’re a spokesperson for your clients, then.

Jada: I’m more than that. I work for clients in the private sector and in corporations, as well as for special interest groups. I advocate for what would benefit my clients in a way that they can’t do themselves directly.

Cody: Isn’t there sometimes a conflict of interest? Let’s say your client this month wants a law passed and your client next month doesn’t. What happens then?

Jada: I’m a gun for hire. I do my best for my client, whichever that client is at that moment.

Cody: I’m glad to hear you say that. I could use the services of a good lobbyist. I’ve been trying to get my wife to agree to buy a new boat...

Jada: Stop right there. In this case there is a conflict of interest. Your wife talked to me last week and wants me to have a little talk with you about that new boat...

[end of dialog]

Cody begins by saying, “You're not the kind of person I would expect to work as a lobbyist.” A “lobbyist” (lobbyist) is someone who works with government officials, usually elected government officials, and tries to get them to vote a certain way on some law or some regulation. “Lobbyists” work to try to influence what we call “public policy,” the government's policy or the government's actions about a certain topic. Cody is saying to Jada that he did not expect her to work as a lobbyist. I should mention also: the verb is “to lobby” (lobby). That means to try to influence a government official.

Jada says, “Why not?” Why didn't you expect me to work as a lobbyist? Cody says, “I picture lobbyists as being kind of pushy and corrupt, using underhanded tactics.” The verb “to picture” (picture) means to imagine something in a certain way, to have an image or picture of something in your head. Cody says that he “pictures” lobbyists as being “kind of,” or sort of, or somewhat, “pushy and corrupt.” “To be pushy” (pushy) means to be very assertive, we might say “aggressive,” forceful, someone who insists on getting their way, insists that everyone agree with them. That would be a pushy person.

“Corrupt” (corrupt) means that you are doing something wrong. You are lying. You are cheating. You are doing something to get influence, usually with a government official, although not always. Cody says that he pictures lobbyists as being pushy and corrupt and using “underhanded tactics.” A “tactic” (tactic) is an approach, a method or strategy, roughly speaking. “Underhanded” means dishonest, unfair. We might also use the word “sneaky” (sneaky). “Underhanded tactics” would be doing something in an unfair or dishonest way.

Jada says, “It's not like that at all, at least not for me. I just use my powers of persuasion to help my clients.” This phrase, “powers of persuasion,” refers to your ability to change other people's opinions or decisions by telling them information that will change their mind, or giving them another option, another way of doing whatever they're trying to do.

Cody says, “So what do you do exactly?” The word “exactly means here “precisely,” in detail. Tell me what you do from this moment to this moment, or this day to this day. Jada says, “I meet with legislators and try to sway them to support laws that are favorable to the people and companies I represent.” “Legislators” (legislators) are people who are elected as representatives of the people. Representatives in a state government or representatives in our national government can both be called “legislators.” The verb “to legislate” means to make a law. So, legislators are people who make laws.

Jada says, “I meet with legislators and try to sway them.” “To sway” (sway) means to persuade, to convince, to change someone's opinion about something. Jada tries to persuade or “sway” these legislators to support laws, or to vote for laws, that are favorable to the people and companies she represents. “Favorable” (favorable) means useful, beneficial, helping. We might also use the word “advantageous” – something positive for a certain person or group. Jada wants the laws to be favorable to the people she represents. “To represent” typically means to go in the place of someone else. So instead of you going and talking to the legislator, you send a representative who will “represent” you. The lobbyists represents and works for the people who give her money to talk to legislators. Jada says she also works to “discourage” legislators from voting for laws that are not favorable. “To discourage” means to get them to not do something.

Cody says, “You're a spokesperson for your clients then?” A “spokesperson” is a general term for someone who speaks for another person, who speaks in public for another person, someone who might speak to newspaper reporters, representing some person or company. That person is called a “spokesperson.” The traditional words were “spokesman” and “spokeswoman,” but a more general term used sometimes now is “spokesperson.”

Jada says, “I'm more than that,” meaning I do more than just speak for my clients or the people I work for. “I work for clients in the private sector and in corporations, as well as for special interest groups.” “The private sector” (sector) refers to businesses and corporations, something that is not the government. We call the government the “public sector.” The private sector is everyone who is not in or part of the government.

Jada says she works for clients in the public sector and in corporations – although corporations are be part of the private sector – as well as for “special interest groups.” A “special interest group” is an organization, usually, that represents a whole group of companies or group of people who have some common interest. For example, there may be many different companies that grow corn in the United States, many different individual farmers who grow corn. They might have a group that gets together and sends a lobbyist to Washington to try to get laws that will favor those companies and those farmers. That group would be called a “special interest group” because they all have the same interest, the same concern. Jada says that she “advocates” for what would benefit her clients. “To advocate” (advocate) means to speak on behalf of a group of people and say what should be done – to speak for a group of people trying to get changes in the way something works.

Cody says, “Isn’t there sometimes a conflict of interest?” A “conflict of interest” is a situation where what you say publicly, or what you do publicly, may disagree with or cause problems with things you do privately. For example, if I own a bunch of land, a lot of land, in a certain area and I am also a government representative, for me to pass laws about how that land is going to be used would be a “conflict of interest.” I have two different things that I'm responsible for: I'm responsible as a government official, but I'm also responsible as a person who owns the land. So, my interests will perhaps conflict or not agree.

Cody says, “Let's say your client this month wants a law passed, and your client next month doesn't.” Cody is saying that if Jada has one company she's working for that wants a law in a certain way, or written in a certain way, and then the next month she has a new company who wants the law written in a different way, isn't this a conflict of interest? Notice Cody uses the expression “Let's say.” “Let's say” means, “for example.”

Jada said, “I’m a gun for hire.” This expression “I'm a gun (gun) for hire (hire)” means literally that you are a person who is given money to go and kill someone, but that's not what Jada is talking about. We use this expression more generally to mean someone who is given money, who is hired, to solve a certain problem, and this person will work for anyone who wants that problem solved, even people who have different interests, even when there is a conflict of interest.

Jada says, “I do the best for my client, whichever that client is at that moment,” or at that time. Cody says “I'm glad to hear you say that. I could use the services of a good lobbyist. I've been trying to get my wife to agree to buy a new boat.” Cody is making a joke, of course. You don't send someone else like a lobbyist to change your wife's mind. The way you do that is by going to the jewelry store. Cody needs to learn a little about marriage here!

Jada says, “Stop right there,” meaning stop talking. “In this case, there is a conflict of interest,” she says. “Your wife talked to me last week and wants me to have a little talk” – or conversation – “with you about that new boat.” What she's saying is that Cody's wife talked to her and has already asked her to influence Cody, so she can't represent both parties, or both people, at the same time.

Of course, she's making a joke also, because “lobbyist” isn't a word we would use to describe someone in this situation. We use “lobbyist” only to describe someone who is trying to influence a government official, not your wife.

Now let’s listen to the dialog this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialog]

Cody: You’re not the kind of person I would expect to work as a lobbyist.

Jada: Why not?

Cody: I picture lobbyists as being kind of pushy and corrupt, using underhanded tactics.

Jada: It’s not like that at all, at least not for me. I just use my powers of persuasion to help my clients.

Cody: So what do you do exactly?

Jada: I meet with legislators and try to sway them to support laws that are favorable to the people and companies I represent, and to discourage them from voting for laws that aren’t.

Cody: You’re a spokesperson for your clients, then.

Jada: I’m more than that. I work for clients in the private sector and in corporations, as well as for special interest groups. I advocate for what would benefit my clients in a way that they can’t do themselves directly.

Cody: Isn’t there sometimes a conflict of interest? Let’s say your client this month wants a law passed and your client next month doesn’t. What happens then?

Jada: I’m a gun for hire. I do my best for my client, whichever that client is at that moment.

Cody: I’m glad to hear you say that. I could use the services of a good lobbyist. I’ve been trying to get my wife to agree to buy a new boat...

Jada: Stop right there. In this case there is a conflict of interest. Your wife talked to me last week and wants me to have a little talk with you about that new boat...

[end of dialog]

Our scriptwriter is not a gun for hire. She only works for us here at ESL Podcast. I speak of course, of the wonderful Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I'm Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again right here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language Podcast was written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2013 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
lobbyist – a person who works with elected representative and tries to get them to vote a certain way or create a certain type of law

* It seems wrong for lawmakers to spend more time with lobbyists than with the people who live in their state.

to picture – to imagine something in a certain way; to have an image in one’s mind of how something appears or how something is

* I always pictured you becoming a famous actor or musician, not an accountant.

pushy – forceful and assertive, insisting on getting one’s way

* Why do car salesmen have to be so pushy? Negotiating with them is really uncomfortable.

corrupt – lying or cheating to benefit in some way, usually be getting more money or a powerful position

* What can we do to get rid of corrupt politicians who give the best jobs to the people who’ve donated money to their campaigns?

underhanded tactics – unfair, dishonest ways of doing something

* Our competitors are using underhanded tactics to try to get our clients to switch to their services.

powers of persuasion – one’s ability to change other people’s opinions or decisions by telling them that something is a better or more attractive option

* Marsha, you’ve been dating Tassyer for a while. Can you use your powers of persuasion to get him to accept our proposal?

legislator – a person who is elected to a government position and is responsible for working with others to make laws

* Drew’s uncle is a legislator, but I can’t remember whether he’s a member of the U.S. Senate or the House of Representatives.

to sway – to persuade; to present facts or arguments that make someone change an opinion or belief

* Judges aren’t supposed to allow themselves to be swayed by public opinion.

favorable – advantageous; beneficial; useful and helping

* We’re hoping for a favorable outcome, but we have to be prepared for the worst.

to represent – to speak or act on behalf of an organization or a person who is not present

* I’m the attorney for Acme Corporation and represent the company’s interests.

spokesperson – a person who is authorized to speak to the public and/or the media on behalf of an organization

* Mariah agreed to speak with the reporter only if he didn’t use her name, since she wasn’t an official spokesperson for the company.

private sector – businesses; the part of the economy that is not controlled by the government and is not not-for-profit

* After 20 years of working for nonprofit organizations, Keith has decided to look for jobs in the private sector.

special interest group – an organization in a particular industry where related businesses work together to gain new knowledge, change laws, organize conferences, raise public awareness, and more

* Did you read the latest report about the benefits of offering prepaid electricity? It’s based on a study conducted by a special interest group.

advocate – to speak on behalf of a group of people and say what should be done or how society should change to benefit those people

* Jamil is an advocate for children and is trying to get laws passed to protect them.

conflict of interest – a situation where one’s personal and public interests or values are in disagreement, making it difficult or impossible for one to make a fair decision

* As the head of the university’s admissions committee, Tiana had a conflict of interest when she was asked to review her niece’s application.

let’s say – a phrase used to introduce a hypothetical situation or an example

* I know you think stealing is wrong, but let’s say your children were starving. Would you steal a loaf of bread for them?

gun for hire – a person who is hired to kill someone or to handle some other difficult or challenging project or problem

* The company is looking for a gun for hire who can help them through the difficult merger.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Cody think of lobbyists as being pushy?
a) Because he thinks they are former athletes.
b) Because he thinks they are persistent and won’t accept ‘no’ for an answer.
c) Because he thinks they are uneducated.

2. Why does Jada describe herself as a gun for hire?
a) Because she’s willing to do things that are illegal.
b) Because she’ll do difficult jobs for her clients.
c) Because she’s able to kill people for money.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
to sway

The verb “to sway,” in this podcast, means to persuade, or to present facts or arguments that make someone change an opinion or belief: “How did you persuade Grandpa to let you borrow his car?” Or, “Jenna has decided to move to Montana and I doubt if she can be swayed.” The verb “to sway” also means to move slowly and gently from side to side: “The treed branches swayed in the warm summer wind.” Or, “They closed their eyes and gently swayed to the music.” Finally, the phrase “to hold sway” means to have power or influence over others: “The church rules simply don’t hold sway over young people like they used to.”

let’s say

In this podcast, the phrase “let’s say” is used to introduce a hypothetical situation or an example: “Let’s say you won a million dollars in the lottery. How would you spend it?” The phrase “to say a few words” means to make a short speech: “Jesse was asked to say a few words, but then he ended up speaking for almost half an hour and the audience became restless.” The phrase “to say a lot about (something)” means to show something clearly or to have a significant meaning: “The way Bret ran to help his neighbors during the flooding says a lot about his good character.” Finally, the phrase “What do you say?” is used to ask if someone agrees to something: “Let’s go to the concert together. What do you say?”

Culture Note
Government Officials Working as Lobbyists

A “revolving door” is a round door divided into four “compartments” (sections) that slowly move in a circle, so that people can enter and exit a building without touching the door. In politics, a “revolving door” describes the way in which many elected politicians accept jobs in private business or lobbying “firms” (businesses; companies) and “vice versa” (the other way around, too).

Some laws “restrict” (place limits on) when government officials can accept certain types of jobs. For example, a law might state that a government official responsible for “selecting” (choosing) “contractors” (companies that perform work in exchange for payment) cannot work for that contractor for at least one year. However, these laws do not apply to everyone.

For example, Dick Gephardt, who served in the United States House of Representatives for the State of Missouri from 1977 to 2005, has benefited a lot from the revolving door. Immediately after leaving the House of Representatives, he created the Gephardt Group, which is a consulting and lobbying firm. The Gephardt Group has many large clients and has “brought in” (earned) millions of dollars. Gephardt has clearly benefited personally from the relationships he built as an elected representative.

Some people argue that the revolving door is “inappropriate” (not acceptable), because it encourages corruption. People and businesses begin to expect “reciprocal privileges.” In other words, if a business does something to support an elected representative, that representative is expected to do something nice for the business in return.

At the same time, other people argue that it is “only natural” (normal; expected) for people in politics to have interests that “overlap with” (be similar to) private business, and it is not surprising that they would be is a good position to become lobbyists after they complete their government service.

Comprehension Answers
1 - b

2 - b