Turning conventional wisdom on its side

Stacey Alexander discusses Subject Matter's fresh perspective on government affairs

Washington can be a town set in its ways, but Stacey Alexander has built a career turning conventional wisdom on its side to achieve innovative results. Former Chief of Staff to Congressman Jim Matheson and Deputy Political Director for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Stacey sat down to share her thoughts on building a 20-year career in government affairs, the importance of bipartisanship and the best 20 seconds of her life.

Subject Matter: How do you approach the challenge of representing clients in today’s political environment?

Stacey: It’s a matter of figuring out who your potential allies are, clearly defining what the problem is and then figuring out the best strategy to organize your allies and achieve the solution.

A lot of people think that lobbying is about winning or losing, but in the current political environment victory very often comes in the form of compromise. You have to be willing to be bipartisan and take a step forward even if it’s a half step. You have to be willing to say, “I might have wanted A, but I’m going to be very happy with B and live to fight another day.”

SM: What’s one of your favorite accomplishments as a government affairs professional?

Stacey: One of the things we do well as a firm, first and foremost, is knowing as many people on Capitol Hill as possible and making sure we establish real and meaningful relationships with them. Because when you have an actual relationship with people, you are able make your case to folks who are more willing to listen and trust that the policies you bring them are based on common sense.

For example, we had a client that advocated the passage of an international trade agreement. It was a process that faced a very close vote in Congress. In order to secure bipartisan support for this agreement, we leveraged our relationships throughout the Democratic caucus and opened a meaningful dialogue about the agreement and our client’s perspective. Through our work, we secured significantly more Democratic support for the bill than had been projected – more than double the original number of votes we hoped to win. We succeeded because the level of trust that existed between us allowed our concerns to be heard as we presented a strong case about this complex issue.

SM: What do you think sets Subject Matter apart from other government affairs firms?

Stacey: We know that to be competitive you have to evolve, so we have adopted a fresh perspective. We’re rapidly deploying new platforms – from digital ads to social media campaigns – to deliver and receive information, and ultimately, support our government affairs work. This spirit of innovation has really been embraced throughout our firm.

SM: Finally, the Olympic Games get underway tomorrow. We heard you once carried the Olympic torch?

Stacey: Yes! I was fortunate enough to carry the torch as it made its way from Athens, Greece, to Salt Lake City for the 2002 Winter Games. It was the most surreal experience.

As you might imagine, the Olympic torch relay is quite an elaborate organizational feat. As a participant, you receive a package in the mail that contains a uniform for you to wear while you run, and instructions for where you are to report on the day-of. I boarded a bus with the other runners – sort of like a shuttle bus at an airport parking lot. The bus drove along the relay route, and when it reached the spot I had been assigned, they told me, “OK, jump out!” I was deposited on the road by the Jefferson Memorial, thinking, “Whelp, here I am and I better not mess this up!”

I was so overcome with emotion because it was the Olympic torch; It was history. I took the torch, which is remarkably heavy, and all I could think was don’t drop it and run as fast as you can. It was over in minutes, but was one of the most remarkable experiences of my life.