OLD EBBITT GRILL
June 20, Thursday
The collective mood in the downstairs Cabinet Room was glum. In spite of the promise of epicurean delights in one of Washington D.C.’s most highly-rated restaurants, the assembly of carefully selected individuals shifted restlessly in their chairs, conversations limited. Myron Bentley sulked at the head of the table, staring into the depths of his Pinot Grigio while the waiter noted his fellow lobbyists’ respective orders.
They knew, as did he.
Mahogany cloaked walls consumed the soft light, complementing his thoughts. He sipped his wine, perusing the invitees. Only those in the elite innermost circle even knew the facility existed.
PURF would house but a fraction of his fellows, who’d be identified via lottery. Those privileged to occupy Phase One had already been chosen by the powers-that-be.
He was not among them.
Some would get in through the proverbial backdoor, one way or another.
Especially former Congressmen.
His own position, however, along with thousands of others, was tenuous.
Few present were union fans, but everyone understood the principle. When people were treated unfairly, banding together could wield influential power.
The waiter headed for the stairs.
Myron signaled his colleague, Calvin Nielsen, to close the door. Like himself, Calvin didn’t make the first cut.
Even more egregious given the facility was his idea in the first place.
They exchanged knowing looks as the man resumed his seat.
Wine glass in hand, Myron arose from the head of the table and stepped behind the dais. His spoon kissed the crystal’s rim.
The din grew still.
“Your attention, please, gentlemen,” he stated. “We’re gathered here this evening to consider a proposal. It will secure our positions as influencers, increase our status among the citizenry at large, and most important, provide resources to protect us, our livelihood, and earned benefits, should the need arise.”
“Hear, hear!” someone called, to which all raised their glasses in a spontaneous toast.
As the din diminished Calvin prompted, “Okay, Myron, old boy. Let’s hear it. What are you up to now?”
A hint of a smile teased Myron’s thin lips.
“I’ll get right to the point. As you all know, it will take several budget cycles before PURF is complete. As long as it remains buried in the black budget we’re relatively safe. But nothing in this world is static. Without military or national security justification, sooner or later its existence will leak out. When it does, public opinion will not be in our favor.”
The room rumbled as attendees murmured agreement. Crystal sang, demanding silence.
“It’s essential to protect our interests,” Myron went on. “To do so, I propose the creation of a nonprofit. Its charter will reflect the official purpose of training new lobbyists in existing law. It will also support a public relations sector to solicit public opinion and promote the service we provide by informing lawmakers of their diverse wishes. When we convince the citizenry we’re on their side, future funding problems should disappear.”
Muffled laughter cast a knowing shadow. In the majority of cases, lobbyists represented multibillion dollar corporations. The few human rights and environmental groups who conducted such activities not only depended on donations for survival, but were noticeably absent.
Myron’s smile likewise defied containment. Thus, he allowed the chuckles to continue while he mustered the appropriate level of solemnity to finish his speech.
Everyone present had been carefully picked, then required to show government-issue photo ID for admittance. However unlikely it might be that anyone would foolishly record the proceedings for subsequent upload on YouTube, the façade needed to be maintained.
The room grew still.
Myron continued, “I propose annual dues of a thousand dollars per member. If five thousand join, which is roughly half our ranks, we’ll have the needed resources.” He battled another conspiratorial smile, then added, “Come what may.”
The Lobbyist Opportunity League would have their back. Even those who’d already secured a comfortable place in PURF’s luxury accommodations couldn’t argue the benefits.
The organization’s acronym had likewise been carefully selected to reflect what went on behind closed doors.