ANNAPOLIS — The Big Daddy of State House lobbyists, Bruce Bereano’s prowess is so secure he withstood a felony conviction — pushing bills from a pay phone while serving time for mail fraud.
Bereano learned the system as a staffer first, and eventually became the first lobbyist to earn $1 million in a year. He told Capital News Service — at no charge — what it takes to play his game.
1. Be nice.
“I’ve seen it again and again over the 30-plus years I’ve been lobbying. A good positive attitude goes a long, long way.”
2. Be patient.
“Understand their (lawmakers’) time pressures. You might have to walk them down the hall or wait an hour for five minutes of time.”
3. Learn the System. `
“At some level you have to understand the institution you’re coming down to lobby so you can be effective.”
The pros know who the decision makers are, how the committees and chain of command operate, who is on board already, who still needs convincing and how many votes will get the bill passed. And that’s just for starters.
4. Be an anthropologist . . .
“This is an institution of a unique category of human beings. They are very driven, very motivated. They have to make sacrifices, to be willing to live in a fishbowl and put up with the guns and arrows and slings.”
5. . . . and a psychologist . . .
“You have to understand the legislators as individuals, their lives, background, character, the jurisdiction they come from. Understand their thinking, and you can understand their actions.”
6. . . . and even a pal.
“Relationships are critical. They are in any endeavor.” (Note: Of Bereano, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert, A.K.A. “The King of Maryland” has said, “I’d be less than candid if I didn’t say he was one of my closest friends.” One delegate has said he is “like an uncle.”)
7. Have your act together.
“Be prepared. Know what you’re talking about. Don’t be long-winded, don’t be overemotional.”
Keep in mind that in many legislative hearings, presentations are limited to three minutes. And many face-to-face encounters with lawmakers take place between the bathroom and the elevator.
8. Expect the unexpected.
“I learn something new every day of every legislative session. How incredibly unpredictable and varied is the human personality. You think you’ve seen and heard it all, and something else happens that blows your mind.”
(CNS: What?. . . That’s it? Are you forgetting something?)
“I know the press and the goody two-shoes try to make money the most important thing, but it isn’t.”
(CNS: But aren’t you the guy who said you’ve never bought a lobbyist, but you’ve rented a few?)
“I said it, but it’s always meant as a joke,” he said. “There’s no truth to it at all.”