Meet Beau Rothschild, Proud Texan and Lobbying Leader

What are some of the highlights of your career? 

Becoming a chief of staff to a House member from Texas was a career goal.  I wanted to help people down in our state given the fact that I started off in the Texas state legislature.  It was very rewarding to be able to deal with constituents I know and share similar views.  I got to accomplish some good things like conducting outreach to Veterans.  Another accomplishment I would highlight – in Texas, we passed a renewable portfolio standard in 2007, and I went up against all the oil and gas interests as well as the electric generation folks.  Our legislation said 20% of all electric generation had to be renewable by 2020.  What I liked about it is that it’s an above-all approach, and as a very young lobbyist at the time, it was a big victory for me.  Getting into politics was another highlight – no one in my family was in politics, but I went after a passion that took me to the Texas state legislature and later to the halls of Congress.  I built my network up from the ground up, so people I interact with on a daily basis are people that I care about, whether they share similar or opposing views.   

How has advocacy changed since you were on the Hill? 

Congress has become more partisan.  I love my friends with different political views, and I used to be able to talk with them without letting disagreements get in the way, but it has become harder to talk with them over the past four years.  It really has affected how good government, business, and even family life are conducted.  

How does advocacy differ on the state level versus the federal level? 

I think they agree very similar in some fashions, but it depends on what state it is.  Some states don’t even have legislative staff.  In one state I worked in, the lobbyists are essentially their staffers.   Members in state houses are generally more accessible than members of Congress.  Also, things move slower in Congress, but things move at warp speed in the states, and every state has different rules on how bills become laws.  I find state work exhilarating, and I find Congress tactical like a chess match.   

What’s some of the best advice you’ve received? 

Do not be afraid to make a mistake because you need to learn to stand on your own two feet.  I learned that very early on in the Texas state house in 2003.  To be a leader, you cannot get a pat on the back for everything you do.  You must learn how things work, and sometimes you must have your own conviction, because that is all you have whether you are working in Congress, business or at home.  I have made plenty of mistakes, and so has everybody else – it is just how you learn and become a better person.   

Other than health care, what other policy areas are you passionate about? 

I love financial services.  It deals with how the economy works, and it is one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle when it comes to the U.S. economy and everyday life.  I also like oil and gas – that is because of where I am from.  Having an all above energy approach where everyone is on the same level creates jobs, helps the economy – it does everything.  I’m a businessperson by trade, and I love how to put together puzzle pieces in different parts of the economy to make it work for a better America.   

What’s one important question that I haven’t asked you? 

What drives you?  My family, my friends, doing the right things, and telling the truth.  Money is not everything; it is the legacy you leave behind.  As my grandmother said, “As long as you have those things, you’re in good shape”.     

What else should we know about you? 

I love politics, but family and friends are number one for me.  I have a kid, another kid on the way, a dog, and an awesome wife.  They are everything and make me a better person daily. I am an avid sports fan, and I love Dallas sports – the Mavericks, the Cowboys, the Stars, and the Rangers.  I also love playing golf.  I used to love hunting and fishing, but I have not had enough time to do those activities lately.  And a fun fact – I rode a bull in college.   

Meet Annissa McDonald, Health Policy Geek 

What are some of the highlights of your career? 

Everywhere I’ve worked has honestly been a highlight for me.  One of the most rewarding positions was when I was Associate Director at Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).  It was really amazing to be on the forefront of health care policy and creating policy that would be rolled out to the rest of the country.  My last 12 years at Healthgrades were also very rewarding because I was working on quality improvement with hospitals and physicians, and really getting in on the ground level in terms of helping providers change the way they practice medicine to create better patient outcomes.  

What brought you back to advocacy and government relations after 12 years in a different role?  

I had worked with Jennifer Bell when I was at MedPAC and she was on the Hill.  We have been working together for over 20 years, and we have always had a very great working relationship.  When she learned that I was searching for a new career path, she reached out to me, and that’s how I got to Chamber Hill Strategies. 

How has advocacy changed since you were on the Hill? 

Advocacy has changed a lot since then.  In one way it hasn’t changed – you still need impassioned people that will help you get your point of view and opinion across to everybody.  That being said, I would say that the partisanship has exponentially grown since then.  20 years ago, there was a lot more working across the aisle and bipartisanship, especially in the House.   

What’s some of the best advice you’ve received? 

Whenever you pick your job, pick the people as well, because it’s really the people that are going to make your work life fun/tolerable/interesting.  You can’t just look at the job – you have to look at the people and the culture.   

Other than health care, what other policy areas are you passionate about? 

While it still relates back to health care policy, I do have an interest in things that revolve around socioeconomic policy.  I do find all of that work very interesting.  For example, what solutions can we come up with, and how do we help everyone rise together?   

What’s one important question that I haven’t asked you? 

What drives you?  What gets you up in the morning and makes you want to go to work?  In all of my career choices, from the very beginning to the end, I’m very service-focused.  I always want whatever I’m doing to help humanity in some little way.  Whatever I’m doing, I want to make sure I’m helping a little bit towards that greater good.   

What else should we know about you? 

I’m a military brat, so I grew up all over the world.  I’m very into change and into new things and travel.  I’m also an avid skier – I’ve been skiing since I was three, and I just started my two-year-old this year!  My five-year-old is also a skier.  I also love to read – it drives my husband crazy because I always have about 40 books on my bedside table.  He says I’ll never read that many books, but I’ll eventually get through all of those books.   

Meet Tah Ashi, the Ascendant Digital Marketing Pro 

What are some of the highlights of your career so far? 

Absolutely. One of the biggest highlights was when I made my first sale for my ecommerce store. I didn’t know anything about women’s fashion, online sales, or advertising on social media. I found some items from China and I put them on my Shopify website, and some random person bought them. I’m not sure if it was luck, but I was super happy. Everything with my digital marketing career started with that first sale. 

Marketing and sales have changed a lot in the past few years. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen? 

Different privacy rules and regulations that have come out over the past few years have changed marketing and sales a lot. For example, about four years ago, you could advertise for nearly anything on Facebook without any restrictions. But after the Facebook–Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Facebook became more restrictive, and it’s been very hard to make sales online ever since, especially with Apple having restrictions on sharing data between Facebook and Google. This all makes it harder to hit your target audience. Instead, what I’ve had to do is use all the different platforms in combination with each other in order to target audiences in a more comprehensive and less restrictive manner. 

What are some challenges specific to marketing and sales in government relations and advocacy? 

The biggest challenge would be lead generation. You can’t do lead generation in the conventional way because government relations and advocacy professionals aren’t as engaged on Facebook or Google for work-related tasks. For example, they’re less likely to click on social media advertisements outside of their workday and less likely to be on social media during their work day. This means you have to find a different way to digitally engage prospects as they go about their workday. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 

The best advice I received was from my dad. He immigrated to this country and made a lot of sacrifices in the process, and he stressed the importance of following your dreams. To him, being successful is a requirement. You can’t waste the opportunities available in this country, and if you have an idea of something you’d like to implement, just make sure you do it to the fullest extent, and make sure that you’re successful at it. He worked a challenging job for up to 80 hours a week just to give our family an opportunity to succeed, and it’s our job to build on his legacy and continue his work ethic. 

What’s one important question that I haven’t asked you yet? 

The question would be: what’s the driving force behind my work? My response would be that I do what I do to build on my family’s legacy. To push myself to my limit, I want to chase all the talents that life and God have given me to the fullest extent. That’s why I’m always trying new things and pushing myself to the fullest extent. 

Is there anything else we should know about you? 

I’m a pretty good soccer player – I actually scored a hat trick over the weekend. I also love to cook, and I plan to be a chef for my retirement plan. I’d love to open a farm-to-table restaurant.

Andy Franke Reflects on Time On and Off the Hill

What are some of the highlights of your career?

When I got out of law school, I wanted to focus on health policy, so I took a big chance and got an internship on Capitol Hill. I was lucky enough to get my first permanent job with a member from my home state in the House of Representatives only about 8 months after I first arrived in DC. A year later, I became Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins’ (R-KS) health policy advisor, which was another major highlight. Working in Congress just generally was fun. After she announced her retirement in January 2017, I was fortunate to go work for Congressman Eric Paulsen (R-MN) – like Congresswoman Jenkins, he was another great member of the House Ways and Means Committee. I really enjoyed working with him – he had a lot of major medical device and healthcare companies headquartered in his district, which provided some great experience.

As a Hill staffer, how did you observe advocacy change over the years?

When I first started taking meetings for Congresswoman Jenkins, I had more exposure to constituents who came in to advocate for their own issues and ideas, and as I took on more responsibility, I started to meet with more prominent organizations and registered lobbyists. Over the years, because of the way legislation moved, advocacy on the Hill went from being concentrated on one-off meetings during the year to being more sustained throughout the year. When I left the Hill, because of the issue portfolio I had and the legislative landscape, I was having meetings almost every day. I also noticed that I was meeting with more established lobbyists instead of younger advocates over time.

What are some of the biggest challenges lobbyists and advocates face in 2023?

Ironically enough, the return to how it was after two or three years of virtual meetings. A lot of senior lobbyists used to be on the Hill all day long to meet in-person, but the pandemic shut that down, and they had to transition to phone and video calls. Even events like fundraisers were done through videoconferencing. Now, it’s almost back to the normal way of going to the Hill in the morning and seeing who you could meet up with off-the-record. After 3 years of not being able to do that, it’s a little bit challenging to get back into the swing of things. But it’s a welcome change, in my opinion. I really like the fact that you can finally go back to the Hill and walk in the building as a normal person without the need for an escort – you can just make an appointment, go to the Hill, and after your meeting is done, go back to the Longworth café, or Cups.

What’s some of the best advice you’ve received?

A good friend and mentor who’s been lobbying for 25 years told me that if you go up to the Capitol and you don’t get a tingling feeling, then it’s time to hang it up and move on, because once you don’t get that feeling anymore, your job probably won’t be fulfilling. But if you continue to get that feeling, and you stay excited about your job, you’re going to be good at your job, whether it’s a Hill staffer, lobbyist, or advocacy professional. I think about that a lot, and I make sure that I still get the feeling that I’m happy to be there and I’m fortunate to be able to do this in the Capitol of the United States. Not many people get this opportunity.

Other that health care, what other policy areas are you passionate about?

For the 4 years that I lobbied for Zimmer Biomet, I was the go-to tax lobbyist. That was not an issue I handled in Congress, so it was a steep learning curve. At first, I did not enjoy tax policy – it’s incredibly weedy, maybe more so than health care. It took a while, but I made great relationships during the learning process. And like health care, it never seems to go away.

What else should we know about you?

I’m an avid golfer. I try to get better every time I play. I picked up golf in 2019 and worked on my game during the pandemic. I’ve also been married for seven years now, and I have two sons – one was just born a month ago, and I recently moved out to Virginia from DC. We lived in DC for 8 years, and we’re loving it out here in Virginia – there’s more space, and it’s a great place to raise a family. Life is good.

How to Rock the Virtual Advocacy Meeting in 2022

Two years into the pandemic, and advocates are still primarily connecting with lawmakers in Washington over a telephone line or computer screen.  However, much has been learned over the past two years, and there are plenty of best practices that you can use to make sure your next virtual meeting with a member of Congress is knocked out of the park.

Embrace Videoconferencing

In the pandemic’s first year, conference calls seemed to be the modus operandi for advocates connecting with members of Congress and their staff.  Over the course of 2021, advocates and congressional offices alike increasingly warmed up to the idea of using videoconferencing platforms for meetings – with Zoom being an overwhelming favorite.  Here are some tips and tricks for using Zoom to your advantage.

  • For multiple meetings at the same time, use multiple accounts.  The basic Zoom plan that’s free-of-charge only allows you to schedule one meeting at the same time.  However, scheduling more than one meeting for the same time slot is easy – just use a verified email account to create a new Zoom account. This will allow advocates to run a new meeting that will run concurrent with what’s already on the calendar.  When setting up more than one meeting at the same time, it’s essential to keep in mind two things:  make sure the waiting room is NOT selected, and select the option to allow participants to join at any time.  These two steps will allow participants to meet without the host, which is the person who holds the Zoom account.   
  • Do not schedule meetings with the same Zoom account-back-to-back.  If the ability to allow participants to join early anytime is selected, a participant could join a meeting early only to find that they are inadvertently part of a meeting that’s still running.  Ensuring at least a 30-minute window between meetings on the same Zoom account will prevent any accidental overlap on meeting attendees. 
  • Double-check your links.  Scheduling multiple meetings can be tedious, so make sure all the Zoom links you created are for the intended meeting participates.  This will help avoid cases of participants entering the wrong meeting or starting the meeting at the incorrect time. 

Make Calendar Invitations Your One-Stop-Shop

When your meeting is scheduled, send an invitation via Outlook or another email service to all meeting participants.  This way, both the advocates and congressional offices know who’s attending, which 1) gives the advocates an opportunity to coordinate beforehand and 2) provides a way for advocates and congressional staff to follow-up after the meeting. 

Additionally, be sure to include other information that’s necessary to all participants to have a successful meeting:  This could include:

  • Links to Zoom, WebEx, or other videoconferencing platform.
  • Meeting materials like PowerPoint slides, one-pagers, leave-behinds, and links to relevant external sources.
  • Information about the legislator (connection to organization, past support of the advocacy issue, membership on relevant committee, etc.).

Recruit New Advocates

When setting up virtual meetings, don’t just rely on your normal “crew” that you could count on to meet legislators in-person.  Instead, look for people that may not be able to make travel arrangements to Washington but have plenty to add to the conversation.   With virtual meetings, geography and distance doesn’t pose any limitations, and advocates from anywhere can join your meeting to share a story with a congressional office.

Famous Felines in the White House

President Harry Truman famously said, “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”  The 33rd president’s quote especially rings true in the White House, where 33 presidents have owned dogs as pets.  However, plenty of cats have called the White House home, and many have stories as interesting as their canine counterparts.   

Dogs versus cats in the US: By sheer numbers, cats are more popular than dogs in America.  According to a 2020 survey by the American Pet Products Association, there are 88.3 million cat’s owners compared to the 74.4 million owners who have dogs.  By volume, however, fish are the most common pets, clocking in at nearly 152 million.

So, it should not be surprising that a few felines have enjoyed their time in the White House and here are some notable examples of the 11 US presidents who have owned cats.

  • Abraham Lincoln.  When Mary Todd Lincoln was asked if her husband had a hobby, she replied, “cats.”  In addition to the two cats he kept in the White House named Tabby and Dixie, Lincoln was known to bring in strays
  • Theodore Roosevelt.  The 26th president had two six-toed cats named Slippers and Tom Quartz (the latter was named after a character in a Mark Twain book).  Slippers was known for sleeping sprawled out in the middle of hallways, causing guests of a state banquet to walk around her on one occasion.
  • Calvin Coolidge.  “Silent Cal” was an avid cat lover who purportedly saved a litter of kittens from being drowned as a young boy.  While serving as president, Coolidge had at least four cats at the White House – Tiger, Blackie, Timmy, and Smokey.  Coolidge originally brought Tiger (or “Tige” as he was nicknamed) to Washington from his farm in Vermont, and he frequently walked around the White House with Tiger draped around his neck.  After Tiger sneaked out of the White House in March 1924, Coolidge directed the Secret Service to issue a radio broadcast on the missing cat.  A listener eventually spotted Tiger sleeping near the National Mall and brought him back to the White House in a taxicab.
  • Rutherford Hayes, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter.  All three presidents brought Siamese cats into the White House.  Hayes’ cat Siam was one of many animals to occupy the Executive Mansion at the time, while Ford gifted a cat named Shan to his daughter for Easter.  Carter’s cat was named Misty Malarky Ying Yang, which inspired the name of a Gabor Szabo song.
  • Bill Clinton.  A stray, bicolor cat reportedly jumped into the arms of Chelsea Clinton as she was leaving her piano teacher’s house 1991.  Chelsea named the cat Socks, and the rest is history.  During his time in the White House, Socks became somewhat of a pop culture figure, having been the subject of a Murphy Brown episode and a virtual “guide” to children visiting the White House website.  Socks enjoyed sitting on the president’s shoulders, and he even had his own carrying case emblazoned with the presidential seal.  After the Clintons left the White House, Socks went to live with a staffer named Betty Currie  in Maryland, where he died in 2009 at the age of 20. 
  • George W. Bush.  George and Laura Bush adopted a black cat in 1991 who they named India after a Texas Rangers baseball player nicknamed “El Indio.”  India, who wasn’t as well known as the Bushes’ Scottish terriers, died in January 2009, just weeks before the Obamas moved into the White House.  The Bushes also had a six-toed cat named Ernie but gave him away to a friend before moving to Washington because of his tendency to claw furniture.

What about the Bidens?  For now, the First Family has two German Shepherds, Major and Champ.  However, the First Lady announced in April 2021 that they plan on adopting a cat from a local shelter but, there have been no updates since then. Therefore, the question remains unanswered on whether the White House will have a feline occupant for the first time since 2009.

The Intriguing History behind Presidential Turkey Pardons

Last Friday, President Joe Biden pardoned two turkeys named Peanut Butter and Jelly from Jasper, Indiana. Turkey pardons at the White House have been happening for as long as many of us can remember, but the tradition didn’t just appear out of the blue. When did the Commander in Chief start liberating turkeys, and what happens after the turkeys are pardoned?

Origins of the Turkey Pardon

The earliest example of a turkey getting its freedom at the White House goes back to Abraham Lincoln. In 1963, the Great Emancipator spared a turkey that his family planned to eat for Christmas at the urging of his son Tad. The turkey remained as Tad’s pet for at least another year.

Over the following decades, turkeys were occasionally donated to the president as gifts. Starting in 1873 during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant, a Rhode Island man named Horace Vose gifted a turkey to the White House for Thanksgiving and kept up the tradition for the next 40 years.

By the time Vose died in 1913, the tradition of sending turkeys to the White House had gained visibility, and other organizations took up the opportunity to continue the tradition. In 1921, the American Legion sent a turkey to President Warren G. Harding, and in 1925, First Lady Grace Coolidge accepted a turkey from the Vermont Girl Scouts. In 1947, the National Turkey Federation took ownership of the tradition when it sent President Harry S. Truman a Thanksgiving turkey.

However, the first turkey to be set free on Thanksgiving was in 1963, when President John F. Kennedy granted a “reprieve” to a turkey sent to the White House. During the presidencies of Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter, turkeys were occasionally spared and sent to live on a farm or petting zoo.

Use of the term “presidential pardon” did not come until 1987, when President Ronald Reagan jokingly used the term in a turkey presentation ceremony. During the ceremony, Reagan quipped that he would pardon the turkey in response to a question from ABC News reporter Sam Donaldson on whether he would pardon Oliver North and John Poindexter, who were at the center of the Iran-Contra scandal. Since Reagan, every US president has maintained the tradition of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving.

The Turkey Selection Process

The National Turkey Federation has managed the turkey selection process for nearly 75 years. The White House turkeys are raised in the same manner as other turkeys bred for consumption and are typically raised on the farm of whoever currently chairs the National Turkey Federation.  From an initial flock of 40-80 turkeys, a group of 20 is selected based on size and tameness. Handlers then familiarize this group with human contact and music so the turkeys are accustomed to the noises and sounds of a White House ceremony. This group of turkeys are then winnowed down to two finalists who are sent to Washington for the pardoning ceremony. 

What Happens to the Pardoned Turkeys?

All pardoned turkeys go to a pen specifically built for them at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. The pen includes a small coup to protect the turkeys from the elements plus an area where tourists can stop by to view them.

Unfortunately, however, the turkeys don’t stick around Mount Vernon for too long. Since the turkeys are bred for consumption, their high-protein diet increases their weight to the point that it puts undue stress on their organs, meaning the turkeys only live for another year or two at most after their pardon.