National Journal:  How to Make the Witness List

Published: October 18, 2014

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By Rachel Roubein

Appearing before Congress is a great way to get one’s perspective heard by the nation’s decision-makers. And in the competitive Washington world, says William N. LaForge, author of Testifying Before Congress, it is also a major “bragging right.” But becoming a member of that club typically involves more than waiting around for a call. All power players want to weigh in on the policy issues facing Congress, so trade associations, corporations, and lobbyists essentially compete to have their CEOs, experts, or clients testify. “You want a seat at the table,” says LaForge, who spent more than 20 years as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill, “and that’s how you get it. You fight for it.”

Those battles often take a form familiar to most in Washington: “I think a lot of that has to do with folks like ourselves in the consulting world having strong relationships with key committee staff,” says Jennifer Higgins, a partner at the public policy and consulting firm Chamber Hill Strategies. Higgins says her work begins long before a hearing is even assigned: The first step is chatting with members of Congress and congressional staffers about issues they care about that also align with a client’s interests. Identifying and creating opportunities is essential, she says.