Saturday morning, I got up and went into the office to do the post mortem on the event. While I was running point on the project, several of the other lobbying groups in the city were assisting on this. There were three other lobbyists at the event and they each had Senators that they were responsible for talking to and ensuring that their votes were secured. All of their notes were to be logged into the shared system that we were using. I wanted to log in and make my notes and review theirs to see if we were going to get this bill passed or if I needed to scramble at the beginning of the week.
I was still angry that Senator Evans had interrupted my conversation with Stewart and Tennyson. I was fairly certain I had Tennyson ready to say he would vote yes. But with the interruption, I had not received the final confirmation and did not feel comfortable putting that vote down. I had to make sure I had what I needed without it.
I had been in the office for an hour or so when I heard a faint knock on the door. I looked up and realized it was Preston Miller. I scrambled to stand up. I suddenly became conscious of the fact that I had not dressed for seeing the Managing Partner of the firm today. I was dressed in a t-shirt and jeans with little makeup on and my hair in a messy ponytail.
“Um, hello..Mr. Miller,” I stumbled over my words and I moved around my desk. I tried to smooth out my t-shirt and tame my hair. “I’m sorry, I wasn’t expecting to see anyone today.” I knew I was fumbling and I had to hope I wasn’t embarrassing myself too much.
Preston Miller stepped into my office and waved his hand. “Sit down Greer, you’re fine. Please, I didn’t mean to startle you. I had a feeling you would be in the office and I wanted to talk to you about last night.”
My blood ran cold. What exactly did he want to talk about regarding last night? I started to worry and my mind began to catalog everything that happened. Did he know about my run-in with Senator Evans? The one where I stood up to him early in the evening? Did he know about my conversation with Stewart and Tennyson and how Evans interrupted and I just backed down? Was he mad about that? I couldn’t keep my mind from playing through every scenario possible and being concerned as to how much trouble I could be in.
“Greer, your brow is furrowed and you’ve gone ghostly white. Can you please take a breath? You’re not in trouble,” Preston said with a laugh. I realized then that I was holding my breath. As I let out the breath and tried to relax my shoulders, Preston sat forward in his seat. It was probably the most relaxed I had ever seen the man. But then again, I had never really been around the man.
“Greer, I need to be honest with you. I was in attendance last night. I wanted to see you in action if you will. Here, I have this up and coming star on my staff and I’ve been negligent in seeing her do her job in person. I was afraid if I told you I would be there, that you might be nervous, so I kept it to myself and made sure my seat was far away from where you were seated.”
My eyes went wide, this was very surprising news to me, indeed. My boss was at the party to evaluate me and I had no idea. So he had witnessed my interactions with Senator Evans. This couldn’t be good. I had to brace myself for what would be coming next.
“I think you handled yourself very well throughout the evening, Greer. I had to laugh when it appeared you stood up to Evans after the two of you literally ran into one another. Not sure what was said between the two of you, but he was taken off guard and seemed to be flustered when he walked off.” Preston just kept watching me to see if I would say anything. I didn’t, I just wanted him to keep talking. I didn’t watch Evans after he walked off so I had no idea how he reacted after he moved on.
“His eyes followed you for a while. I think he was taken with you, but I can’t be sure. I wasn’t in his proximity to be able to hear his conversation or even close enough to read his lips. I just know that his eyes followed you. But I couldn’t help but notice him making a beeline for you at the end of the night to break up your conversation with Senators Tennyson and Stewart.”
This is where I decided to go ahead and speak up. “Yes, sir, he just interrupted the conversation I was having and pretended I wasn’t even there. He began speaking to Frank and said he wanted to talk to him about some legislation. He said he wanted to talk to Grant, sorry, Senator Tennyson as well and just dismissed me out of hand.”
“Did you say anything or attempt to stop his interruption?”
“No, I didn’t. I didn’t think it would be appropriate. A man of his stature, along with two other Senators, I felt it would be disrespectful. I think both Senators knew that Evans was out of line, they knew why I was backing off as well. I don’t think they thought poorly of me for doing so.” I cleared my throat. “Am I being reprimanded for backing away?”
Preston Miller’s eyes went wide. “Absolutely not! No, I’m not here to reprimand you at all. I’m sorry if you think that’s what this is about.” He suddenly let out a little laugh. “Actually, I thought you might like to know that I called Senator Evans’ Chief of Staff last night and read him the riot act over his actions.”
“What? Please say you didn’t?”
“I certainly did. Your honor needed to be defended. I know you’ve had difficulties in dealing with Senator Evans and you expressed concern in dealing with him over the Briarwood Technical deal. I can’t have him being disrespectful of any lobbyist on the Hill, not just my Associates. He can’t wield his powers like that and get away with it. Especially if the DNC is considering asking him to run for President.”
Ok, that was news to me. The DNC was going to ask him to run for President? Where did Preston hear this bit of information? Who am I kidding? Preston Miller has his ear to the ground and knows more information on all of the politician in DC than anyone. He probably has dirt on everyone out there and could make or break anyone’s career.
“You’re still going to have to work with him, Greer. If you have any issues with him at all I need you to tell me right away.” Preston pushed himself up and out of the chair and began walking toward the door. “You handled yourself well last night and I have no doubt your bill will pass. Don’t worry about Evans, he’ll come around.”
Preston walked out of my office and I was left wondering what in the hell had just happened. Why had he felt the need to tell me that he had been there last night? And why had he felt the need to tell me that Evans was being considered for a Presidential run? I was confused more than ever.
~ * ~
I stood in my office and gathered a few files into my bag. Joanie and I had reviewed the telecom bill one final time. It was going to head to the Senate for a vote this afternoon and I was going to watch the proceedings in person. The vote was taking place at four, but the floor was opened for discussion before the vote at two. Which meant I had a few hours to get across town.
The plan was to grab a few files and grab some take out and then eat on the steps of the Capitol Building. The weather was supposed to be nice and it would give me an opportunity to people watch before heading in. The city truly is spectacular, even though the tone of the city had changed after 9/11. Now you had metal detectors and concrete barriers everywhere. You were always on edge when you saw someone wearing a backpack or carrying a large bag. And the sight of a box truck always made your stomach drop.
I’m from New York originally so I moved from one city that is held in the grip of terror to another. But what is amazing about DC is the history and the awe that you see in the faces of the visitors. To know that it’s the nation’s capital and that history, for good or bad, is made right here is inspiring. It is without words to know that you are walking down a hallway that former Presidents have walked down. You’re following in the footsteps of giants in history.
Okay, so I wax poetic. I can’t help it. I brown bag it and get to the steps of the Capitol Building. I decide to sit near the bottom and eat my lunch. There are a ton of steps to walk up and I figured it would be a good idea to walk off my lunch. I’ve been inside the Capitol plenty of times, but I generally get there through the underground passages from the Senate Office Building. It is rare for me to actually walk up the stairway to the building. Actually, most people take the ramps or the side entrances because of the number of steps. You have to be in shape to get to the top and still have air in your lungs. I figured I would just take my time.
Once I got to the top, I had to walk through the metal detectors. Every entrance now had police and metal detectors to make sure you weren’t carrying any guns, knives, or bombs into the building. While I had words that were sharp and could cut, I didn’t have any blades on me. I was actually more fearful of what the Senators could do to me instead of what I could do to them. I was nervous, this bill was a big deal. This was by far the largest piece of legislation I had worked on to date and I needed it to pass. I felt confident that it would but you could never be too sure.
Joanie and I had reviewed the numbers and as of this morning, I was five votes over. But things could change in a heartbeat. I made my way to the third floor where I would be able to watch the debate and the vote. The gallery was starting to fill in and I saw several representatives from the telecom industry seated in the first rows. They didn’t see me, so I elected to sit a few rows behind them and to their left. I still wanted to see the floor, but stay out of the line of sight in case things didn’t go well.
Little did I know that where I sat meant I would have a prime seat to see Senator Evans. Dang it! I had just sat down when he walked into the theater and took his seat. He had removed a file from his briefcase and slid a pair of glasses onto his nose. He was dressed in a charcoal suit and a stark white shirt with a blue tie. Dare I say that with his glasses on, he was striking and I had a hard time looking away. I had to keep reminding myself that he was the enemy. I never called him or asked him for his vote. I knew it would be useless to do so, he would never entertain me in conversation and would tell me that he would make up his own mind. It was the line he gave every lobbyist. Hell, he’d used that line on me numerous times in the past. I didn’t see that it was worth the effort to even attempt to reach out to him.
I had actually bet Joanie that he would vote against this bill. I told her that there was no way he would vote for it. The funny thing was, I told Joanie that if I were a Senator, I wouldn’t vote for this bill either. See, I do this job for money, but that doesn’t mean I believe in everything I am selling. This bill was not in the best interest for rural communities and small businesses in those communities. It was also not good for the consumer marketplace and was leading us right back into the path of monopolies. But my job as a lobbyist is to fight for my client and sell it to the voting members of the Senate and House. I get paid handsomely to do it, too.
Sure, it’s a horrible thing to do and it makes me a bad person. I’m selling my soul to the highest bidder. But come on, the Senators are doing it, too. They’re being paid to vote for these things. ‘You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ sort of thing. If you don’t believe that happens you are super naïve. It is how government works and you prostrate yourself to the highest bidder in the hopes that you’re getting things done that will, in the end, be in the best interest of the American people.
The gavel sounds on the podium as the Senate is called to order. The telecom bill is announced and the grandstanding begins. Several of the Senators who had been vocal in their opposition speak out as to why they believe this bill should not pass. I am surprised that Senator Evans does not stand up. Instead, he just listens and takes notes.
Several Senators who have been firmly in our corner stand up to outline why they believe this bill should pass. Once again, Senator Evans just takes notes while he listens to the speeches. I have to admit that everything happening in front of me is like theater. A well-choreographed dance between the aisles. It is frustrating and entertaining at the same time.
Once each side has been able to make their case, the undecided voters have an opportunity to ask questions. There are two Senators who stand up to ask questions. Actually, they weave their questions in such a way that it makes it hard to decipher which way they want the answer to fall. Once they have an answer to their satisfaction, the roll call is started.
I know that I will hear Senator Evans’s answer early on since the roll call is conducted in alphabetical order. I realize I’m wringing my hands while I’m waiting.
“Senator Evans of Massachusetts, what say you?”
I knew it! I’m not surprised, really I’m not. But it still burns my ass that he voted against me. I realize I shouldn’t take it personally, especially since I said I wouldn’t have voted for this if I was on the floor. But it’s my job to persuade these people to vote. And no matter what I do, I can’t get through to him.
I’m so caught up with thoughts of Evans that I don’t even realize the votes are in and the legislation has passed. I was able to secure the votes I needed and the telecom companies are happy. I stand from my seat in the gallery, politely nod to the telecom officials and quietly exit the room. I walk down the stairway and exit onto the second floor, right by the large doors of the Senate chamber. I stop to let the Senators walk by, not engaging with any of them.
As what I think is the last Senator has walked past, I begin to walk toward the staircase to take me to the first floor. I freeze when I hear his voice, “Congratulations, Ms. Hamilton.”
I turn slowly to see Senator Evans standing just outside of the chamber doors. He isn’t smiling at me, but he isn’t scowling, either. I pull my shoulders back and take a step towards him so I am not yelling across the hall. “Thank you, Senator. I appreciate that even though I know of your opposition to the legislation.”
“Yes, well I have my reasons for opposition.”
“I’m sure you did and based on the votes, you weren’t alone.” Our conversation, if you could call it that was definitely strained. We were two people who didn’t like one another but were making an attempt at small talk. It was awkward, to say the least.
“That is true.” He actually broke into a smile. I had to admit, he was quite handsome when he smiled. Actually, Senator Evans was an attractive man and I tried to push that out of my mind every time I came face to face with him because of our adversarial relationship. I couldn’t let his good looks get in the way of my mission. “I owe you an apology. I did not act like a proper gentleman the other night and I’m sorry. It was a tough day for me and I ended up taking it out on you and you didn’t deserve it.”
I was stunned that he was apologizing but I couldn’t hold my tongue., “Are you apologizing because you mean it or because Preston Miller told you to?” I think I took him off guard because his eyebrows shot up and he just stared at me. I hung my head. “Sorry, here you were trying to apologize and I go and say something like that. I meant to say, apology accepted.”
Senator Evans nodded and started to walk off. He had taken four or five steps before he turned back to face me. “For the record, Greer, the apology was my idea. Preston yelled at my Chief of Staff, not me, and he never demanded an apology.” He then turned back around and walked back toward his office.
There was something about the way that he said my name and offered his explanation that made me believe that he was sincere.