Alumni advocate careers as lobbyists

April 21, 2008

“Get involved and be an intern," was the message three alumni who work as professional lobbyists advised political-science students at a department-sponsored lecture held April 10. Randy Dove ’74, executive director of Government Relations, Electronic Data Systems; Jim Kaufman ’91, director of Government Relations, Office of Government and Public Affairs, Johns Hopkins Institutions; and Neil Messick ’71, vice president of Government Relations, ArcelorMittal Americas, all political-science majors who credit their former professors for political internships that provided the opportunity to launch their careers.

Kaufman, who is known in both the State House and Congressional halls as “Mr. Hopkins,” will receive a McDaniel Trustee Alumni Award at the May 4 Honors Convocation where academic and activity leadership awards are presented to the graduating class. As an undergraduate, Kaufman interned for long-serving Maryland legislator Julian “Jack” Lapides. During that 90-day General Assembly session in Annapolis, what Political Science Professor Herb Smith calls “government on a human scale,” Kaufman took his theoretical learning from the classroom to its practice. During his junior year, he worked for a member of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee sparking his further interest in understanding how budgets drive priorities in public-policy setting. Currently, Kaufman serves Hopkins as its lead analyst on such issues as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, managed care, patient safety and health information and his expertise is valued by high ranking U.S. Senators.

As a lobbyist for the world’s largest steel manufacturer, Messick debunks the perceptions many hold about his profession, a $2.8 billion industry of over 35,000 registered lobbyists. As an undergraduate he spent a semester interning at the United Nations and headed to D.C. after graduation where he was hired by then U.S. Senator J. Glenn Beall. “My first job was running the signature machine,” he admits, but quickly added that his work as a legislator assistant led him to a 50-year career on Capitol Hill.

“It’s a job where you can occasionally influence public policy, get to help people everyday, and have a front-row seat to history.”

The relationships he forged gave him strong credentials when General Electric offered him the opportunity to become a lobbyist. Messick worked for GE twelve years where he developed his seven rules of lobbying, the single most important being “always tell the truth.”

Several years after Messick, Dove too found internships working for Senator Beall and also started in the mailroom sorting postcards and “learning how to fold envelopes.” For him perseverance and hard work paid off and thanks to English Professor Makosky, he learned how to write with clarity. That skill – and fortunate timing – led to a job as press secretary for U.S. Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias. Today he seeks legislative experience when hiring new staff and encourages graduates to “learn to walk the halls of Congress.”

“I learned [at McDaniel] how to build relationships,” he said and has kept many of those friendships decades later. “I only wish I had taken business courses.”