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Bitter Betty: Democrats Need an Etiquette Lesson

5 years ago
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The e-mail chain between Elizabeth (Don't call me Liz!) Becton, a staffer for Rep. Jim McDermott, (D-Wash.), and a Democratic lobbyist who is a friend of a friend of mine has been forwarded around Washington all week because it perfectly encapsulates the frustration of lobbyists in both parties in dealing with some of the more arrogant Democrats on Capitol Hill.

The e-mail exchange started with a seemingly innocuous request by the lobbyist to set up a meeting with her client, JPMorgan Chase, and McDermott (I've taken out the identifying names and phone numbers only):

Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 5:05 PM
To: Becton, Elizabeth
Subject: RE: JPMC Meeting Request

Hi Liz,

just checking in on whether the Congressman is available next week. [Name] can confirm a meeting time for you – she is available at [phone].

Thank you!
[Lobbyist]

The correspondence quickly took a turn to the nasty when Becton, McDermott's executive assistant and office manager, angrily responded to the email with three words: "Who is Liz?"

The back and forth continued with the lobbyist, clearly confused, determining that Liz and Elizabeth were in fact the same person. The answer to "Who is Liz?" is that Elizabeth/Liz is a high-handed, low-level, well-paid ($87,000 last year) congressional staffer whose work for the congressional majority has clearly gone to her head.

The wild e-mail from Elizabeth/Liz -- that ended the lobbyist's e-mail efforts to assuage her hurt nickname feelings -- is so unbelievable you will think I made this up. I didn't, and have the original email to prove it.

From: Becton, Elizabeth
Sent: Wednesday, May 27, 2009 6:04 PM
To: [lobbyist]
Subject: RE: JPMC Meeting Request

Let me put it this way, they don't know me and perhaps they were PRETENDING to know me better than they do and pretended that I go by Liz. They did YOU a disservice.

In the future, you should be VERY careful about such things. People like to brag about their connections in DC. It's a past time for some. It's also dangerous to eaves drop, as you have just found out.

Quit apologizing and never call me anything but Elizabeth again. Also, make sure you correct anyone who attempts to call me by any other name but Elizabeth. Are we clear on this? Like I said, it's a hot button for me.

And please don't call the office and not leave a message. My colleague told me you called while I was away at the Ladies' room. I do sometimes leave my desk.

Elizabeth Becton
Executive Assistant/Office Manager
Office of Congressman Jim McDermott

"Are we clear on this?" As Jack Nicholson said in the great film A Few Good Men: Crystal.

Democrat vs. Democrat is, of course, delicious fodder for those of us in the Republican Party. But the reality is that lobbyists in both parties have been frustrated by the unwillingness of some House and Senate Democrats to have meetings or take calls from interest groups and associations.

As one well-connected Democratic lobbyist explains, "We all say that Hill Democrats might tell you before they screw you, but they will always screw you." I asked how that was different from dealing with Republicans. "Republicans will actually take your calls, have the meeting, listen to your point of view and take it into consideration. Of course, as minority, they can't actually DO anything with the information, but at least they listen."

I've written before about lobbyists getting a bad rap in the age of Obama. But to govern well, you need to know all points of view. To govern effectively, you need to "grow the vote" by having meetings with representatives from all sides of an issue. And frankly, the most effective way to get the votes to pass a bill is to just be nice.

Oddly enough, Elizabeth/Liz worked for Republicans before her current job with the Democrat McDermott, so she should know better. But after the Elizabeth/Liz emails, I'm thinking of sending all Democrats on Capitol Hill a copy of Emily Post on Everyday Etiquette.

Read more Elizabeth/Liz e-mails at: Twitter: EmilyMiller_DC

Filed Under: House
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