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Outgoing Md. lawmaker launching pro bono lobbying shop

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There’s a sizable roster of former Annapolis lawmakers now working as State House lobbyists – and making a comfortable living, thank you very much.

Outgoing state Del. Jimmy Tarlau (D-Prince George’s) is taking steps to join their ranks – but in a very different way. Tarlau is planning to become a pro bono lobbyist for progressive organizations and causes.

“I’m not going to compensate myself,” he said in a recent interview.

The People’s Lobbying Group, as Tarlau is calling it, is lining up clients that work on tax issues, economic justice, labor, consumer rights and local Prince George’s County matters. He sees it as an attempt to “level the playing field” in Annapolis.

“Only people with lots of money have the ties and the means to hire lobbyists,” Tarlau said. “There’s no one speaking for common people.”

For Tarlau, after losing a bid for a second term in this year’s Democratic primary to Cheverly Town Councilman and political scion Julian Ivey, this feels like a natural progression.

“I was an advocate before I was a legislator and I’ll be an advocate after I was a legislator,” he said.

Tarlau, age 70, a former Mt. Rainier city councilman, was one of the most progressive members of the House during his four years in Annapolis, focusing on tax policy, workplace issues, health care and education. A longtime labor organizer, mainly with the Communication Workers of America, he said he’s able to contemplate a post-Annapolis life of pro bono service thanks to his “good union job with a good pension, along with Social Security.”

State legislators who want to become paid lobbyists must wait out a one-year “cooling off” period before starting their lobbying activity, but that requirement doesn’t apply in this instance. Tarlau said he’s looking forward to monitoring the activities of his former colleagues and measuring the progress of legislation he cares about. And he hopes to build a team of pro bono lobbyists.

“As a legislator, you can do some good,” he observed. “But it’s really the advocates who can make things work.”

Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.



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