INTERN TURNED LOBBYIST: Taking on Capitol Hill with Choose Clean Water Coalition

 

 

March 18, 2019 

by Annie Amrhein

As I passed through security heading into Longworth, one of the three House office buildings located on the Hill, I was immediately engulfed by the buzz of activity. From Capitol police officers escorting protesters down the hallway, to congressional staffers hustling about to various interest groups gathered together in the cafeteria, it was clear the day was already in full swing at 8:30am. Peter Marx of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, and my supervisor at Maryland LCV Ben Alexandro, discussed our strategy and overall game plan for the day, and before I knew it, we were heading to the Rayburn building via the underground tunnel to meet with Maryland Congressman Andy Harris. And so it began, we were off to the races!    

This experience of attending a lobby day on Capitol Hill was one of a kind. Over a hundred people from dozens of nonprofit organizations descended on the Hill last week to punctuate the necessity of increased funding for clean water initiatives. It was an extremely rewarding experience being in these meetings with staffers and members of Congress. Not only did we represent and voice the 

Choose Clean Water Coalition’s concern as a unit, but each group was made up of different types of professionals to illustrate the diversity in success stories surrounding clean water initiatives.

I now know how crucial these meetings are. They help establish a genuine working relationship and encourage an open dialogue between the dozens of environmental organizations and Congress. I quickly learned this type of transparency is needed when working on environmental issues, namely clean water efforts. Even with our champion elected officials in Maryland, I learned how important it is to keep all groups informed and aware of the situation at large. We provided context to help staffers and members alike understand how prior funding was distributed, how instrumental this money was in maintaining clean water programs across their district.

 The Hill has always been a term I hear in conversation without any real understanding of what it looks and feels like on the ground. Walking through the House and Senate buildings and having Senator Ben Cardin and other congressional members speak at our luncheon was truly enjoyable. One of my biggest takeaways from the day was how the Choose Clean Water Coalition membership really came together as a unit. Ben Alexandro from the MDLCV is the state lead within the Coalition and it was impressive to note the amount of pre-planning this day required. I met many people from different states and organizations, all working on a variety of water issues.

This multi-faceted group afforded us with numerous opportunities to showcase how inter-related and connected these environmental issues are. We experienced this while meeting with Congressman Harris’s staffer, who immediately connected with the hunting and recreational programs described by  our Ducks Unlimited counterpart. The storyline developed further with the anecdotes from the Interfaith Partners and Shorerivers executives. I believe this provided the staffers and members with an opportunity to better understand how their individual efforts positively affect so many others. From farms to religion to duck hunting, these varied perspectives are so important in helping outside parties truly internalize and see the value of their work as it pertains to clean water funding.

I was always a bit intimidated by the prospect of lobbying, but it is clear how effective these meetings are and will continue to be in the future. There was definitely a strong sense of camaraderie among all of the parties involved. Between the countless handshakes and smiles exchanged, it was hard not to feel connected even being a recent addition to this group. This experience reminded me that at the end of the day, we’re all human and trying to make a difference in a way that feels important to us. This was definitely an experience I will never forget and one that makes me very excited to continue working on these types of environmental issues here at the Maryland League of Conservation Voters.  

Annie, pictured in red, is with Maryland LCV's Ben Alexandro and other Clean Water activists on Capitol Hill. 

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