We sat down with the Coalition’s Lobbyist, Paul Cosgrove, for a quick Q&A.
So, you’re the the Coalition’s lobbyist. In layman’s terms, what do you really do?
I speak with legislators (and sometimes agency staff) to educate them on the issues of concern to my client. Sometimes that means explaining why a proposed bill, policy or appropriation is not a good idea. Sometimes I am asking them to support a bill or policy, or to fund a program. But it is all a matter of education. And I work hard to build trust among those I lobby by always being completely accurate and trustworthy. That is the most crucial attribute of an effective lobbyist.
Why do you lobby for arts and culture specifically?
I come from a musical-performing arts family, and my wife is a painter, sculptor, and printer. So it is really a natural fit for me.
Why do legislators and the public need lobbyists? Would you say lobbyists have been misunderstood?
If there weren’t any lobbyists to provide information, legislators would not have crucial information to make good decisions. Every conceivable interest group or entity has one or more lobbyists, and the information provided by them in total to a legislator ensures the best decision is made. As one experienced legislator taught me early in my career, his job was to take his own personal experience and knowledge, and combine it with what he got from lobbyists on both sides of an issue, and then use his judgment in arriving at the best decision.
I know some of the public think lobbyists just “wine and dine” legislators to gain favors and support for the lobbyist’s clients. And that may have been more true in the past, but now there is too much information available to legislators to make that a successful lobbying strategy.
What do members of the Coalition and advocates looking to getting involved in protecting arts and culture in Oregon need to know that they don’t know?
Working as part of a coalition like the Cultural Advocacy Coalition magnifies the message for legislators, and having many voices deliver the same message, from their own perspective, is incredibly effective. Politics is a social enterprise – in the truest sense of that term. Working together really is the only way true political progress is made.
Paul Cosgrove has more than 30 years experience in government relations and business law. He has been named four times by Portland Magazine as one of the city’s best lawyers in government affairs. Paul received his J.D., from the Northwestern School of Law at Lewis and Clark college and a B.A. with honors from Western Washington University.