This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, September 12, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.
The world of D.C. lobbyists seems pretty dull by comparison, but that is the subject of the new HBO series K Street, produced by Clooney and Soderbergh.
Real-life lobbyist Ed Rogers joins me now from D.C. He is the chairman of Barbour, Griffith and Rogers (search). Ed, the big question — is the life of a lobbyist actually interesting enough for big star, big-time TV?
ED ROGERS, BARBOUR, GRIFFITH & ROGERS: Well, maybe Hollywood can make it that way. Most of what I am familiar with is better suited for C-Span rather than HBO.
GIBSON: Well, what do you really do all day, just tell us. What does a K Street lobbyist actually do? Most of it is pretty dry.
BARBOUR: Most of it is pretty tedious. It's being in the machinery, the policy-making process. When someone comes to town with a problem, they inevitably want three things — they want to know, number one, who matters to my problem? Who in the bureaucracy has some authority over my problem? Number two is they want to get a fair hearing in front of those people. They want to be able to make their case. And number three, they want to make the best presentation they can make and know how they're doing. That's what you do.
GIBSON: OK. Now, you know, Barbour, Griffith and Rogers is a big firm. We recognize all those names. You're one of them.
GIBSON: Do you guys actually sit there in your office — I imagine it would be a big office, a plush office — and pick up the phone and say, “Mr. President, Ed Rogers here, I have got a client with a little problem?”
ROGERS: In 12 years, I have never, nor am I aware of anyone who has ever lobbied directly to a president. Usually you don't lobby the White House. When your problem gets to the White House, and I worked there for several years for Reagan and Bush, when your problem gets to the White House, it's over.
GIBSON: It's too late.
ROGERS: The White House sets policy. It's sort of a decision approval rather than a decision maker in terms of the things that people care about. You know, Washington this year will collect and redistribute $2.2 trillion in the federal budget. There are a lot of winners and losers associated with that collection and redistribution of $2.2 trillion. That's what most of lobbying in Washington is about.
GIBSON: OK. Let's try to imagine this, because I'm having a hard time. I guess if HBO had said, “We're going to make a series about undertakers,” I would have said, “Maybe that is going to be hard.” It turned out to be pretty good.
What do you imagine is going to be the drama, and the suspense and the human emotion of your industry there on K Street?
ROGERS: I can't wait to watch. It may be interesting. It may be fun. I'm going to tune in. But Hollywood can make a show that's self- declared about nothing like Jerry Seinfeld and be a huge hit. And, obviously, there is an appetite for sort of back room and behind-the-scenes machinery in Washington as is evidenced by The West Wing.
But the White House lends itself to some drama, to some history, to some intrigue. Most of what I know about lobbying and K Street — and we don't have an office on K Street, by the way — is pretty dry, is pretty tedious, and it doesn't lend itself to what, say the West Wing would.
GIBSON: We're seeing these pictures of classic lobbyist pictures, hanging around outside of a hearing room, waiting for it to open so they can go in and listen to what regulators, maybe the occasional elected official are going to do with some minute piece of legislation.
ROGERS: That is a good way to put it.
GIBSON: And, you know, somebody's got to do it and there you are. You're doing it. I'm having a little hard time figuring out how that scene in the hallway with everybody leaning against the wall is going to make great drama.
ROGERS: I'm with you, John. But these people are pros in Hollywood and maybe they can dramatize it. I can't wait to see. But like I said, it is a little dry and truth be known, it's tedious and it lends itself to C- Span, not HBO.
GIBSON: Yes. Well, there's Clooney and Soderbergh. I mean, is there anybody in your group… that's strikingly handsome and charming as George Clooney?
ROGERS: No, we don't have anybody and we don't exactly have a Kim Basinger either, you know what I mean?
GIBSON: Ed Rogers, life on K Street. Ed, as always, thanks a lot. I hope you enjoy the show.
ROGERS: Thank you, John.
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