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An Insider’s Look at Lobbying in America

  • 06:00 PM
  • 970-476-0954

An Insider’s Look at Lobbying in America

Hot Topics

With Catherine Bennett, Rick Rodgers and Nancy Zirkin

Moderated by Ron Elving

June 20, 2018

Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; program from 6 – 7:30 p.m.

Four Seasons Resort and Residences Vail | Vail*

You may remember the song, “I’m Just a Bill,” from Schoolhouse Rock, a simple tune providing a simple version of a bill’s journey through Congress to become a law. But one of the major elements missing from the song is the influence of lobbyists. Depending on the size and topic of the legislation, dozens — sometimes even hundreds — of lobbyists will be involved, petitioning lawmakers to tweak language and policy points in a bill. But the role of lobbyists is still shady and vague to most of the public and many are painted with a wide, unflattering brush.
In this panel discussion with moderator and “contrarian” Ron Elving steering the conversation, former lobbyists from industry and public interest groups will provide an overview of the recent history of lobbying at the federal level and a discussion of lobbying activities — both the pros and the cons.
Catherine Bennett was a registered lobbyist for more 30 years, based in Washington, DC. In addition to working on Capitol Hill for Congressman Peter H.B. Frelinghuysen, IV (of New Jersey), she worked on the professional staff of the National Security Council under the Administration of President Gerald R. Ford. Under the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, Dr. Henry A. Kissinger and subsequently General Brent Scowcroft, Bennett was responsible for legislative and regulatory issues impacting national security. She then moved to the private sector working in the Washington Government Relations Office of Pfizer, Inc., where she spent 28 years ultimately becoming a Vice President with responsibility for global trade, investment and international tax policy. Most recently, Bennett worked for Tyco International for 7 years as the Vice President for Global Public Affairs with operations in Washington, Brussels and Beijing, where she was responsible for all aspects of public policy issues and government relations globally. She retired from Tyco in April 2015.
Bennett currently serves as Chairman Emeritus of the Prevent Cancer Foundation and on the Board of Roundup River Ranch, where she is Chairman of the Development Committee. She has previously served on the Boards of the Ripon Society, the National Foreign Trade Council, the Public Affairs Council and the Tax Coalition. She has also served as a member of the International Trade Advisory Committee on Intellectual Property for the US Department of Commerce. Bennett grew up in Morris County, New Jersey. She graduated from Smith College, has a Masters in International Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and a Law Degree (Cum Laude) from the Georgetown University Law Center. She and her husband, Fred Frailey, have a home in Arrowhead, Colorado and have five children.  
Rick Rogers is the Staff Vice President for Government Affairs at FedEx Corporation. He is responsible for helping to shape and promote the interests of all FedEx Corporation operating companies, including FedEx Express, FedEx Ground and FedEx Freight in the political and policy arenas. He works mainly with Members of Congress and related industry associations. During his 29 years in Government Affairs, he has worked on a wide range of issues for the Company, from aviation to trucking to defending the RLA status of Express.
He joined the Government Affairs team in 1989 as a Manager in State Government Affairs, based in New Jersey. In 1993 he moved to Washington DC to join the Federal Affairs team. He was promoted to his current position in 2003 and is a three-time recipient of the FedEx Five Star award, the company’s highest employee achievement award.
Prior to joining Government Affairs, Rick worked from 1987 to 1989 in the Memphis Hub as a checkersorter on the day sort. After receiving a BA from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), he became a political operative for Republican campaigns, including the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Republican Party of Texas and the 1984 re-election campaign for President Reagan. Rick has been named one of the top ten lobbyists in DC by The Hill Newspaper. Rick is married to his lovely wife, Nicole DeSibour Rodgers and they have two lovely (most of the time well behaved) children.
Nancy M. Zirkin has long been active in issues involving civil rights. Since 1971, she has worked to advocate public policy that improves the lives of all people by promoting civil and constitutional rights in education, the workplace, housing, voting rights and the economy. Her efforts to advance civil rights have included grassroots organizing, lobbying members of Congress and state legislators and personally supporting candidates who believe in equal opportunity and fair treatment for all Americans.
In February 2008, Zirkin became Executive Vice President (EVP) for the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights (LCCHR), the nation’s oldest and largest civil and human rights coalition consisting of more than 210 national organizations. Zirkin led the coalition’s congressional and executive branch lobbying efforts in the defense and promotion of civil and constitutional rights and liberties. She directed, managed, formulated and coordinated LCCHR’s public policy, communications/media and grassroots strategy. Zirkin oversaw the expansion of the Leadership Conference’s public policy department to more effectively promote the policy goals of the coalition and its member organizations. She stepped down as EVP in 2017 and currently serves as senior advisor.
Before coming to LCCR, Zirkin served as Director of Public Policy and Government Relations for the American Association of University Women (AAUW), a 150,000-member national organization.  She directed, managed, and coordinated the implementation of AAUW’s public policy agenda in Congress and the executive branch by overseeing the legislative, grassroots, and coalition efforts on AAUW priority issues including civil rights, education, reproductive choice and workplace issues. As well as having been AAUW’s chief lobbyist, in 1995 Zirkin created and directed the AAUW Voter Education Campaign, which reached more than one million women voters during the 2000 election.
Zirkin’s efforts for the advancement of women began when she worked in the women’s rights division for the Muskie for President Campaign.  From 1980 to 1985 Zirkin held several positions at AAUW including coordinator of the ERA ratification campaign and of the Women’s Vote Project. She left AAUW in 1985 to work in the private sector. She returned to AAUW in 1989 as the Campaign for Choice coordinator and became Director of Public Policy and Government Relations in 1992.
While in the private sector, Zirkin was Executive Vice President of Harry D. Myerberg Associated Companies, Inc., in Baltimore, Maryland. Zirkin directed all aspects relating to the operation and administration of companies responsible for the property management of approximately 2,000 HUD-insured apartments in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Annapolis, Maryland.
As a volunteer, Nancy Zirkin is on the board of Governors of the National Boys and Girls Clubs of America; on the board of the United States Institute of Peace; Chair of the Leadership Council of No Kid Hungry and on the board of Washington National Opera. Previously, she served on the board of the Wilson Center, National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association and The Women’s Campaign Fund. Zirkin continues to be active in several community-based projects.
Nancy is married to Harold Zirkin, an investment adviser in Bethesda, Maryland. They have four children and eleven grandchildren.
Ron Elving is senior editor and correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News where he is frequently heard on air and online as a news analyst and writes for He is a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast, consistently a Top 20 podcast on iTunes, and appears in the Facebook series “Ron’s Office Hours.” He was the senior manager for the Washington Desk from 1999 to 2014.
Ron is also an executive in residence for the Department of Government in the School of Public Affairs at American University. He was previously an adjunct professor in the SPA and in the School of Communication since 2013 and received the AU Outstanding Teacher award for adjunct faculty in 2016. He had previously taught at AU from 1995-2003 and has also been an adjunct professor at Georgetown University.
Prior to his time at NPR, Ron was the political editor for USA Today and for Congressional Quarterly.  He has also been published by the Brookings Institution and the American Political Science Association. He has contributed chapters on Obama and the media and on the media role in Congress to the academic studies Obama in Office 2011, and Rivals for Power, 2013.  His earlier book, “Conflict and Compromise: How Congress Makes the Law,” was published by Simon & Schuster.
Ron came to Washington in 1984 as a Congressional Fellow with the American Political Science Association and worked for two years as a staff member in the House and Senate.  Previously, he had been state capital bureau chief for The Milwaukee Journal. He received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago and the University of California – Berkeley.
This program is generously underwritten by Holly & Ben Gill. The Hot Topic series is generously underwritten by Cindy Engles and Kathy & Neal Kimmel.

Note: The doors will open at 5:30 p.m.; program will begin at 6 p.m.
* Parking is limited at the Four Seasons. Please park in the Vail Village parking structure; valet parking is available for $15. Enjoy dinner at Flame or a drink at Remedy Bar and your valet parking will be validated.

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