NILE Members are proud to call themselves lobbyists and stand behind what they do for their clients and their communities.
To the average American, the word “lobbyist” conjures up an image of seedy characters negotiating backroom deals and throwing cash at politicians. But stereotypes notwithstanding, the vast majority of professional lobbyists are honest, ethical surrogates for citizens exercising their First Amendment right “…to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
In June, I wrote, “The lobbying profession is no different than any other. We have our bad actors just like everyone else. The problem is, our bad actors make headlines because their unethical behavior (or scandal) sells. You will never see a front-page headline about a lobbyist who has done something positive – the public doesn’t care about that and that is not news today.”
The fact is that public policy advocacy, or lobbying, is—and always will be—an integral component of our representative democracy. And as with most professions, lobbying has many sides. With that in mind, in the coming months NILE will be highlighting the positive aspects of what it means to be a lobbyist; to humanize who we are and what we do. We’ve devoted this section on our website to stories submitted by NILE members about their career, their volunteer work and, most importantly, their role in shaping sound public policy.
It’s about time we step out of the shadows and combat the pervasive campaign rhetoric against our profession head-on.
Member Profile: CRD Associates
If you had to define a “white hat” lobbying shop, CRD Associates would be a good place to start. Since its founding 36 years ago, the firm has built its reputation advocating for good causes, oftentimes well before anyone perceived a need.
“In the beginning, we felt like the patron saint of hopeless causes,” noted Dom Ruscio who, along with Nick Cavarocchi and Joyce Briscoe, first launched the firm. “One of our first clients was the Alzheimer’s Association. But keep in mind that Alzheimer’s was hardly a household name back then, so it was a challenge explaining the demographics of an aging population, not to mention the tremendous financial toll Alzheimer’s would soon exact on society.”
A few years later, Lyle Dennis, a former House staffer who had cut his teeth in the hard-scrabble world of New Jersey politics, joined the firm. At the time, the scientific world was abuzz over the human genome and the potential it held for curing or preventing disease. But the idea of spending millions of dollars on mapping the genome without any assurance of immediate success would be a hard sell.
“The only way Congress was going to commit,” Dennis reasoned, “was if enough public and private stakeholders raised their voices.” Going “door-to-door” as he describes it, Dennis managed to organize dozens of disparate groups to form The Genome Action Coalition. The coalition mounted enough pressure to convince Congress to set aside $3 billion for a 10-year project to sequence the human genome.
Those early challenges set a pattern that continues to drive the firm’s work. In recent years, CRD Associates’ work on Capitol Hill has helped sharpen the government’s focus on pancreatic, liver and other deadly cancers; lesser known disorders like tuberous sclerosis and Alpha1; and breakthrough diagnostic tests.
But the firm’s work on ‘good causes’ extends beyond its paying clients. CRD Associates staff have helped with food preparation at Martha’s Kitchen, the DC-based food pantry. The firm also has a decades-old relationship with Reading Is Fundamental’s inexpensive book distribution program and with Books for America, which distributes new and used books to adult and youth literacy programs, homeless shelters, military bases and correctional facilities.
Above, CRD Associates founders and staff members work diligently both for their clients and their community.