Once again, it’s been a nail-biter. The 2008 Defense bills are just receiving their final stamps of approval. No more pacing, wondering “Will they or won’t they?” Service chiefs and the contractors that love them are finding out what’s in and what’s OUT.

But this hardly comes through natural selection. In the competition for limited dollars (they really are limited), you have to find ways to ensure your program is funded. If you are one of the uniformed forces, you build close relationships with members of Congress and their staffs, and you inform them of your needs. That’s … informing. If you are anyone else you build close relationships with members and their staffs and inform them of your/your client’s needs. That’s … lobbying.

What’s the difference?

We don’t think there is one.

Military sources tell us there is a difference between lobbying and informing (stated like they really, really wanted us to believe them and go away quickly). When queried, former and retired-servicemembers-turned-lobbyists roll their eyes, laugh and tell us people want to believe there is a difference (because lobbying is untidy business?), but there is none. One former Marine and former House Armed Services Committee staffer said with sarcasm, “Oh yeah, they [the services] would be up there [the Hill] all the time lobbying — I mean informing — me.”

Let’s see if we have this straight: DoD’s last-minute list to lawmakers telling them of funding priorities is — informing. Top Navy officials’ calls to key lawmakers on funding for the imperiled littoral combat ship is — informing … ? Lockheed Martin’s or General Dynamics’ contacting lawmakers about LCS is … lobbying.

See the difference? We don’t either.

We sort of like how things were done decades past, as recounted in this except from an April 2, 1928, Time magazine article.

“As ambitious a bit of lobbying as was ever accomplished in Washington was effected last week by a tall, unique young man famed for his blond hair, loneliness and lack of ignoble motives. The actual lobbying, which usually consists in more or less furtive arguments by adroit advocates in the corridors and committee rooms of Congress, in this case took place at Boiling Field, far away from Capitol Hill. The lobbyist was Col. Charles Augustus Lindbergh and his sole argument was an airplane. He took several score of Congressmen up for a fly. It seemed unlikely that any of them would ever thereafter vote against any air law that may be endorsed by Lobbyist Lindbergh.

… Of the 531 members of Congress some 250 Representatives and a score of Senators flew. Observers watched to see how Congress would deal with Representative Furlow’s bill providing a separate promotion list and “just” pay for the Army Air Corps, for which Col. Lindbergh has spoken.”

Lobbyist? Informer?

Does it matter?

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