"Mr. Speaker, may I come in?"
"Well, if it isn't Spiro Amburn, my favorite chief of staff."
"Doggone it, Mr. Speaker, you say that every time I come in the door. I am your only chief of staff."
"Did somebody get up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Looks like I've got to turn that pookie-puss into a smiley face. Who's taking us to lunch today? "
"That's what I want to talk to you about, sir. We've got a problem."
"What kind of problem? And what's this ‘we' business. You are supposed to solve my problems, Spiro."
"Mr. Speaker, you've got to get away from your hard line on no spending limits for lobbyists."
"Ha ha ha ha - wait a minute. You aren't kidding, aren't you?"
"No sir. Voters all over the state are up in arms about limiting lobbyist expenditures and a number of legislators are feeling the heat."
"What do the voters have to do with this? This is none of their beeswax. I run the House of Representatives, in case you have forgotten."
"No question, sir, but if the voters throw out the legislators who won't sign the pledge to limit lobbying expenditures to $100, you may not run the House anymore."
"Are you serious?"
"Dead serious, Mr. Speaker. And frankly, you didn't help things at the Republican convention in Columbus when you said the effort to limit expenditures was being pushed by ‘media elites and liberal special interest groups.' The tea party is one of the driving forces behind this effort and by no stretch do they consider themselves liberal. Frankly, they thought your comments were an insult."
"Well, that's not my fault. They oughta take me to dinner every once in a while or to a ball game and then I would know these things."
"What are we going to do about the media, sir?"
"Forget them. Most of the media I see around the Capitol have gravy stains on their ties and eat their peas with a butter knife. I will take my chances with them."
"Sir, do you understand how mad the people are?"
"Spiro, do you know how much I don't care? I've said a million times they can look up my expenditures on the whatever-you-call-it commission. I think Georgians should be impressed that I've blown through $3,000 of lobbying money doing their business (wink! wink!) and we aren't even at the half-way point of the year. With a little luck, I could hit five figures by Christmas. Which brings up a point: I am a little disappointed that I only had one dinner in May for a lousy $135. You need to get the word around to our lobbyist friends that Mr. Speaker knows they can do better than that."
"With all due respect, sir, I don't think that is something you need to flaunt. Besides, there is one columnist who says he intends to report your expenditures every month to his readers across the state. He says since you seem so anxious to have people know who is wining and dining you, he considers this a public service - like saving the snail darter. By the way, he used to be a member of the State Ethics Commission, so the relationship between lobbyists and legislators is of special interest to him."
"Well, la-di-dah. Just ignore the guy or better yet, sic Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones on him. She'll take care of that bozo."
"I don't think that is a good idea, Mr. Speaker. He has discovered that Rep. Jones had 63 meals in 40 days with lobbyists, including 15 with the same guy. I'm not sure she would be our most effective advocate in this instance."
"Well, Spiro, I'm not sure what we should do at this point, but I do know one thing."
"And what is that, sir?"
"All this talk about lobbying limits has given me a powerful appetite. Go fetch one of them lobbyists lurking out in the hall and tell 'em the Speaker is mighty hungry."
"Mr. Speaker, do you really want to do this?"
"Spiro, does a butterfly have wings? Son, I know you are trying your best to be of help here but sometimes I think you just don't understand politics."
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, GA 31139.