Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

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Introducing the ‘Life and Liberty Lobbyist’ to the Political Landscape

by Bill Simon

There is a new breed of lobbyist roaming the State Capitol these days during the 2010 Georgia General Assembly

These lobbyists are ordinary Georgians, not paid by any corporate interests for their lobbying work, but are lobbyists who volunteer their own time to participate in studying, tracking, and testifying for or against certain legislative bills in front of the committees.

These are not “children”, nor are they there for a lark. They are people who are fed-up with the way they’ve observed over the years how their own interests as citizens get hijacked by well-heeled corporate lobbyists who ply their trade with (for example) $200 hockey tickets for people like (as just an example) State Senator Don Balfour who traded his “humble service” to his state senate district to help Georgia Power ram-down legislation like last year’s SB-31, a bill written exclusively for the benefit of Georgia Power.

These new “citizen lobbyists” call themselves “Lobbyists for Life & Liberty“, which is not any kind of official group name. It just defines what they believe in.

Now, before your little minds start to spinning about what “Life” means and what “Liberty” means, I thought it might be a good idea to let the leaders of this new cause provide you with some straightforward Q & A. My interview was with Aaron Coalson, who is one of the founders of this cause:

PV: Explain to us a little bit about what a “Life & Liberty Lobbyist” is, and what your goals are.

A: Our goal is to help empower as many citizens as possible to be able to exercise their right to petition their government as mentioned in the First Amendment to the US Constitution. We are non-partisan and simply wish to speak up for our own life and liberty. Our main focus is constitutionally-restrained government. We are not exclusively a pro-life organization, though most of our fellow lobbyists are of that belief.

The “Life” in ‘Lobbyist for Life and Liberty’ is a much broader term than the “pro-life” term used in politics. We refer to an individual’s right to live his life as he or she sees fit, free from the intrusion of another violating their life or property.

Our purpose is to build an organization that believes in constitutionally-restrained government and each trained citizen be empowered to lobby on behalf of the beliefs they hold. We do not require our members to pass any sort of litmus test as to beliefs to get involved in taking back their government. We will train anyone (Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, whoever) who wishes to learn how to help take back their government.

PV: If citizens go through your training, do they need to agree to lobby your causes of “Life & Liberty” exclusively?

A: Citizens can come to our training and afterwards lobby for whatever they choose. We will not always agree, but we will raise the level of debate and either convince each other of our stance or politely agree to disagree. Either option is ok, and no feelings will be hurt with that
understanding going in.

PV: The vast majority of “professional lobbyists” are paid to lobby on behalf of a specially-designated entity. Are “Life & Liberty Lobbyists” paid to lobby for a cause?

A: Lobbyists for Life and Liberty are citizen lobbyists not paid by any organization to lobby. They volunteer their time to come down to the legislative session to work for themselves. This way they can lobby for themselves, their rights, and liberties and not be burdened by the
necessity of having to submit to the organization providing your paycheck if you don’t agree with the agenda.

PV: Tell us a little bit about the type of training you offer ordinary, political novices to educate them on how to read legislation and actually testify in front of committees.

A: We show folks how to read a bill, how a bill becomes a law, how committees work, how to testify in front of a committee, where to go to find all the information they will need to do all of the above, and also how to register as a lobbyist, complete with a badge and credentials.

PV: You and Rob Miller have been doing this type of lobbying for about how long, and did either of you have any experience before as a paid lobbyist?

A: We’ve been working at this since October 2009, and no, neither of us have had any experience as any kind of lobbyist, paid or otherwise, before now.

PV: What was your first experience like in testifying before a legislative committee? Were you scared, apprehensive, or experiencing any kind of stage fright?

A: I walked into my first committee hearing in reverential awe of the legislators. I ignorantly believed that the men and women sitting before me would be the best minds of their day. I quickly realized that they were just ordinary men and women and the vast majority had less of a grasp of the issues than I did. I quickly became comfortable after this realization. Public speaking is easier for some than it is others, but with time and practice everyone becomes better. The thing that I realized that was key for me was that I am the best advocate to stand-up for my rights and liberties.

PV: In 2009, a total of approximately $1.54 million was spent by the various Georgia lobbying interests to schmooze Georgia legislators. How can you folks compete for a legislator’s attention when the professionals have tons more of financial resources to “grease the skids” to get access and the legislators’ attention for their client’s interest?

A: We are working to increase the ethics rules concerning lobbyists and money. We also use our growing network of citizens to demand that our voice is heard.

PV: Are there designated “leaders” to help new citizen lobbyists determine what legislation they should lobby for or against?

A: Because Rob and I are down at the legislature often, and have our ear to the ground so to speak, we have a good grasp of legislation that most folks would support or oppose if they believe in constitutionally restrained government. We provide the information of what actually is going on and folks can make up their minds about where they fall concerning the bill.

We also have volunteer coordinators that track specific committees. These volunteers are well-versed on the legislation passing through each committee.

PV: What kind of investment in time and money is required for the training?

A: Training usually takes around 2 hours, and we do not charge anything to train.

PV: How many people have gone through your training to date?

A: Around 200 citizens.

PV: If people are interested in learning how to lobby for themselves and their rights, how can they contact you to get trained?

A: They can contact “Lobbyists for Life and Liberty” on Facebook or they can contact us via e-mail, Info@lobbyistsforlifeandliberty.org, or call me, Aaron Coalson, at 678-558-3470.

LobbyistsforLifeandLiberty.org is under construction and will launch soon.

PV: Thank you for your time, and information, Aaron.

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Today's Deep Thought

If you go to a costume part at your boss's house, wouldn't youth think a good costume would be to dress up like the boss's wife? Trust me, it's not.


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