A guide through the halls of Congress
Jamie Wall keeps her contacts fresh on both sides of the aisle
While policymakers walking the halls of Congress and the White House might change every few years, Jamie Wall is a consistent figure in our nation’s legislative corridors. To say Jamie’s entire life has been steeped in politics is an understatement.
Before coming to Subject Matter, Jamie worked for Missouri Senators Roy Blunt and Kit Bond, Missouri governor Matt Blunt and was the director of global government relations and lead for global trade policy at Honeywell. Jamie relies on her intuition and experience to guide policymakers to make the decisions that eventually become law. Jamie took a moment between meetings to discuss why all politics is local, the secret to building relationships and why both Democrats and Republicans always matter.
Subject Matter: What led to you chasing a career in politics?
Jamie: This is kind of embarrassing, but you know the little worksheets from elementary school that ask you what you want to be when you get older? I’m not making this up – my parents think this is so sad and funny – I wrote “lobbyist.” In all fairness, I was in third grade, but it stuck. I remember my dad would go to conferences and bring my family along and I would always ask to sit in on the board meetings. After the meetings, my dad turned to me and said that I clearly like to argue, so maybe I should become a lobbyist after all. The rest, as they say, is history.
SM: How has your past helped shape your understanding of D.C. and the work you do at Subject Matter?
Jamie: Some of the first work I did in politics was constituent services – the customer service of politics. When people have a problem, they’re going to call their elected officials for help. And if you aren’t willing to help, they’re not voting for you again. My constituent service work was a very visceral experience that showed me the truth of the well-worn maxim “All politics are local.” Sometimes those of us who work in Washington think that everything we do matters the most, but it’s what happens outside the Beltway that’s important and is what gets members of Congress reelected. Understanding this and the Three P’s of Politics are critically important.
SM: The Three P’s?
Jamie: The Three P’s stand for process, politics and the people. Having worked on the Hill, especially the U.S. Senate and Honeywell, I had to learn how the process of lawmaking worked. I’ve learned about arcane rules like a discharge petition, germaneness and things that I had no idea about growing up. People in Missouri don’t live or die by achieving cloture [laughing]. Understanding how a bill actually becomes law is extremely important.
Then the politics. I understand the different fault lines and the relationships between members of the same and different political parties. You have to appreciate what is known as the “art of the possible” in politics because at the end of the day, that’s really what matters. And there’s another piece of the puzzle, the fundraising and campaign side of things. Understanding that nuance is critical when working with legislative and executive bodies.
Finally, the people. You have to know and understand the rhythms of the people you walk past in the halls to get work done. I loved that my career started the way it did because it taught me the Three P’s and gave me a good background to then be successful inside the Beltway, which I haven’t seemed to be able to get out of since.
SM: How does your work change when we see a change in administration and congressional leadership?
Jamie: In a lot of ways my work does not change as Congress and the White House changes. Relationships and priorities remain largely the same. How you talk about those priorities may change, the key players may shift. But in terms of the form and function of lobbying, my work stays the same. I still have to keep my contacts fresh and cultivate new relationships on both sides of the aisle so that we can be a resource to the Hill. No one likes to be called upon at the 11th hour, so we try and avoid those situations by always staying in contact with members and their staff.
No matter what season it is, both Democrats and Republicans still matter, especially in the Senate where it takes a supermajority to pass legislation. You still need to work both sides to move forward, even if it doesn’t mean they’re helping in support of legislation. It could mean the other side is simply reserving their fire and not blocking your legislative agenda. Having them give you enough space to do your work goes a long way. I cannot stress enough the power of having strong relationships across the aisle. People forget that a good deal usually means you’re not getting 100 percent of what you want. One of my bosses used to say that if you get 80 percent of what you want, that’s a pretty good deal. It means you got most of what you wanted rather than nothing at all.