The Pennsylvania Catholic Conference is the public affairs arm of the Catholic bishops across the state. In other words, we are lobbyists for all issues that we see as important to the Catholic Church.
Lobbyists aren’t always looked upon fondly. But those ‘in the know’ realize their importance. One of those people ‘in the know’ is long-time political activist, radio host, school board member, political candidate, and friend, Eric Epstein. I went to him for his take on lobbyists because he is very familiar with the inner workings of government and he pulls no punches.
“Lobbyists are indispensable,” Epstein said. “I think they have a bad reputation because people are not really aware of what they do. Lobbyists are designed to educate and advance your position in Harrisburg. Without lobbyists you have no representation.”
Epstein says people may hear about the lobbyists that represent the big groups, like oil and gas, pharmaceuticals, charter schools and the NRA. But he says just about every entity in the Commonwealth has someone advocating on their behalf.
“If you don’t, then you are exiting the battlefield, leaving yourself exposed and actually going to invite harm,” he said. “In other words you have to have people advocating for you, day in and day out.”
Epstein said it’s especially important nowadays when Pennsylvania is so reliant on so-called “sin taxes,” taxes from activities like gambling and the sale of alcohol.
“People have this stereotype of lobbyists drinking and playing golf, and some of them do. But without this necessary asset you’re leaving your self-interests in harm’s way. As someone who has actually been an advocate for low-income folks, consumer groups and environmental folks, I can tell you with first-hand knowledge, you have to be at the Capitol, day in and day out, developing relationships and educating legislators, especially new legislators.”