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Featured NILE Member:

Tommy Goodwin; Project Management Institute (PMI)

Q: Please describe your background: education, career path, current position/organization.

A: For nearly two decades, I have been working to drive policy change on Capitol Hill, in state houses, and in capitals across the globe. These days, I am the lobbyist for the Project Management Institute (PMI), where I advance the project management profession within the United States federal government and governments worldwide to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of government projects, which reduces waste and saves taxpayer dollars.

Prior to joining PMI, I spent more than 15 years leading a wide-range of state, federal, and international government affairs, advocacy, and strategy-development efforts for blue chip associations and leading companies in the health care, technology, and education sectors… with a slight detour as a research fellow at the Harvard Business School.

I have a B.B.A. from The George Washington University, an M.B.A. from Auburn University, and executive certificates from Stanford University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Georgetown University. I also hold a Public Policy Certificate from the National Institute for Lobbying & Ethics, a Certificate in Public Affairs Management from the Public Affairs Council, and a Certified Association Executive designation from the American Society of Association Executives.

Q: What drew you to lobbying?

A: The opportunity to petition the government for a redress of grievances! Too often people incorrectly believe that they do not have the ability to impact public policy, whether in their hometown or our nation’s capital. I was drawn to lobbying, in part, because being in the Washington, DC area, I saw firsthand the positive effect that interacting with lawmakers could have to drive change… and the ability to do that on behalf of thousands or millions of Americans is an incredibly satisfying role.

Q: Please describe how you got your start in this field.

As an undergraduate at The George Washington University, I interned for the small government relations office of a technology company… and caught the advocacy “bug.” When my employer was looking to expand its lobbying presence in Washington, DC, I was able to join the team full time and begin advocating for policies that led the rapid spread of important technology innovations across the country and around the world.

So, unlike many of my colleagues, I did not get my start working for a member of Congress or in the Administration. But, that said, I have been around long enough to navigate my way around the Rayburn House Office Building like an old pro!

Q: Please comment on any particular challenges you’ve overcome and/or accomplishments you’ve achieved throughout your career.

A: Throughout my career, I have been fortunate to represent Americans from all walks of life in their efforts to make government work better for them. From reforming healthcare to reducing government waste, I am always happy to see the impact of policies that became law have on both individuals and society as a whole. So whether it is making sure my parents have access to the retirement benefits they worked so hard to earn, guaranteeing my friend Amanda from college gets coverage for her pre-existing health conditions, or making strides towards ensuring the federal government spends each dollar sent to Washington, DC the way our families would, seeing how the policies I have lobbied on make people’s lives better is an incredibly rewarding experience.

Q: How would you describe the lobbying profession today, and where do you think it is headed in the future?

A: The lobbying profession today has never been more important or urgent. With so many conflicting and contradicting messages today, lobbyists can help break through the clutter for those they represent by clearly and concisely helping lawmakers and their staff work through complex policy challenges, understand the impact those policies have on their constituents, and surfacing solutions that solve important problems.

While many believe that the increased volume of direct constituent communications and social media will render lobbyists obsolete, I believe that the importance of lobbyists and their ability to marry policy and subject-matter expertise, political know-how, and strong communications skills will only grow… for lawmakers and those they represent alike. My colleagues and I play a critical role in ensuring government at all levels listens to citizens and stakeholders, and with the myriad of policy challenges on the agenda going forward, the importance of providing decision-makers with timely, accurate information and perspectives about the challenges that confront them can’t be replaced by a hashtag!

Q: What words of wisdom would you offer to those considering entering this profession?

A: Lobbying is an incredibly challenging and worthwhile profession. Successful policy advocacy requires in-depth policy and political knowledge… along with a unique combination of government relations, issues management, communications, and stakeholder mobilization skills.

But more importantly, lobbying provides a collective voice to individuals on behalf of many worthwhile organizations and causes.

So, to those considering entering the profession… do it! There are millions of people relying on you to carry their message directly to the lawmakers who serve them.

Q: If you could send a short message to the public about the value or role you play, what would that message be?

A: Contrary to public misconception, not all lobbyists are Jack Abramoff… or even Remy Danton! Lobbyists are an important link between lawmakers and the constituents they represent. Our work is transparent and fully disclosed to the public… no closed-door deals and smoke-filled rooms!

Every day lobbyists work to ensure that our elected and appointed officials are responsive to those they serve. And standard-bearers like the National Institute of Lobbying & Ethics works diligently to ensure that we all do our jobs to the best of our ability and abide by the highest professional and ethical standards.

Why We Exist

Although lobbying is an ancient art — as old as government itself — it is still frequently viewed with suspicion. It is, in fact, a legitimate activity protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution:

“Congress shall make no law….abridging the freedom of speech….or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Our founding fathers recognized a legitimate role for unelected participation in government by conferring a First Amendment right on citizens to petition the government for redress of grievances. Citizens caught up in the demands of day-to-day living delegate these “petition” duties to professionals (or lobbyists).

Because the lobbying profession is so little understood, however, it is often viewed as a sinister function, yet every “mom and apple pie” interest in the United States uses lobbyists — a fact little known by the general public.

Simply put, lobbying is advocacy of a point of view, either by groups or individuals. A special interest is nothing more than an identified group expressing a point of view — be it colleges and universities, churches, charities, public interest or environmental groups, senior citizens organizations, even state, local or foreign governments. While most people think of lobbyists only as paid professionals, there are also many independent, volunteer lobbyists — all of whom are protected by the same First Amendment.

Lobbying involves much more than persuading legislators. Its principal elements include researching and analyzing legislation or regulatory proposals; monitoring and reporting on developments; attending congressional or regulatory hearings; working with coalitions interested in the same issues; and then educating not only government officials but also employees and corporate officers as to the implications of various changes. What most lay people regard as lobbying — the actual communication with government officials — represents the smallest portion of a lobbyist’s time; a far greater proportion is devoted to the other aspects of preparation, information and communication.

Lobbying is a legitimate and necessary part of our democratic political process. Government decisions affect both people and organizations, and information must be provided in order to produce informed decisions. Public officials cannot make fair and informed decisions without considering information from a broad range of interested parties. All sides of an issue must be explored in order to produce equitable government policies.

Who We Are and What We Do

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