Government

Making the connection: Lobbyists represent diverse client base in navigating complicated legislative maze

November 13, 2006

Indiana's wineries faced potential ruin in early 2006.

The U.S. Supreme Court had handed down a decision requiring states to treat in-state and out-ofstate wineries the same. That meant if Indiana wineries were allowed to continue to ship directly to Indiana consumers, out-of-state wineries would be entitled to the same access.

Or the state could ban all direct shipments of wine to Hoosier consumers. That's exactly what wholesalers wanted. But that would have spelled disaster for Hoosier wineries. The wineries spent the early part of the 2006 Indiana General Assembly's legislative session trying to get legislators to support their cause, but they didn't have the access or clout needed to forge a compromise with the wholesalers.

So they hired the Indianapolis lobbying firm Hays Murray Castor LLP, and its principals, Lisa Hays Murray and Tory Callaghan Castor, went to work. After weeks of negotiating with legislators and representatives of the wholesalers, the partners came up with compromise legislation that would allow both local and outof-state wineries to ship up to 3,000 cases of wine each year to Indiana customers.

"We were handed a bill in February that would have effectively put our client out of business," Castor said, "and we were able to negotiate a bill by the end of the session that allowed them to continue operating-with a few more hoops, but as they had."

Hays Murray Castor's work earned high marks from both their clients and competitors.

"They're so smart," said Bill Oliver, owner of Oliver Winery in Bloomington. "They know the details and workings of the General Assembly. It's kind of a mystery to those of us outside of it, and they really know it well. They know the players, they know the procedures, and they're so effective at negotiating and getting things done. They did a fantastic job."

Even Jim Purucker, executive director of the Wine and Spirit Wholesalers of Indiana, who opposed them on the wineries legislation and competes with them for lobbying business, acknowledged that "they did a fine job representing the wineries."

"The wineries came in with a total volunteer organization," he said. "They were disjointed, and Lisa and Tory were able to bring some unity to the message."

As Hays Murray Castor LLP, they are one of only four registered Women's Business Enterprise lobbying firms in Indiana. (The Law Office of Darla Y. Williams and Associates, MG Consulting Inc. and eGlobal Consulting Inc. are the others.) The Minority and Women's Business Enterprises Division of the Indiana Department of Administration works to provide equal access to firms seeking to do business with the state.

The partners handle issues ranging from taxes to alcohol to agribusiness to campaign-finance law. Together, they have more than 30 years of lobbying experience.

Lisa Hays Murray, 50, can trace her lobbying career back to 1984 with the Indiana Association of Cities & Towns. After working as an attorney for Indianapolis law firms Johnson Smith Densborn Wright & Heath LLP and Krieg DeVault Alexander & Capehart LLP, where she was partner and chairwoman of the Governmental Affairs Practice Group, she left to form Hays Murray Group with her dad, former state Rep. J. Jeff Hays. They lobbied together for five years.

In 2004, when Republicans won control of Indiana government, Murray, a Democrat, asked Castor, a Republican, to join her. Castor, 36, had worked as public policy manager for the Metropolitan Association of Greater Indianapolis and as an attorney for Indianapolisbased Bingham McHale LLP. Jeff Hays has stayed on as senior adviser.

The partners said their political differences actually help their work. "[Tory] brings balance on the Republican side; I bring balance on the Democrat side, so when we need to show our political arm, we can do that," Murray said. "We're not partisan with each other. We bring our differences to the table and balance things out, and that's good."

"I've always found ways to work with people who do good quality work and are people of integrity and credibility, regardless of their politics," Castor replied. "That's all I ask."

State Rep. Matt Whetstone (R-Brownsburg), who worked with Castor and Murray to help reach the compromise on the wineries legislation, says the women complement each other.

"Lisa's the hard negotiator. Tory's the soft powerbroker. She's quiet and listens a lot, then tries to find the middle ground," he said.

Both women are lawyers, which helps when they're working with legislators to draft bills. In the case of the wineries issue, Castor said, their job wasn't just to help arbitrate the matter but to hash out proper wording for legislation.

Their profession, of course, received two black eyes on the national level this year when Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to multiple felonies for, among other things, buying access to Congress. Murray, Castor and others say lobbying in Indiana is more a process of providing information to help legislators make informed decisions.

In the case of the wineries issue, for example, you won't find any Indiana lawmakers who suddenly have wonderful wine cellars or personal sommeliers, the women said. They did invite legislators to visit the wineries to educate themselves, but any legislator who took them up on that offer did so on their own time-and dime.

"We earn access through our hard work and skill," Castor said.

Whetstone said she's right.

"We have to be able to trust the factual information they bring to us without having to worry about proving it on our own," he said. "We're a citizen legislature, so we really have to trust a lot of people.

"Sometimes that's good, sometimes it's not," Whetstone continued. "Lobbyists get a reputation of either being trustworthy or not trustworthy, and if you don't have to spend a lot of time double-checking the facts they provide to you, that's a good thing."

When Murray began her lobbying career, there weren't many women in the Statehouse hallways. Those who were there, she said, were subordinate to the men. Today, "you always realize you're a female, but really, you wear the hat of your client when you're advocating," she said. "More than whether you're female or male, your personality is key-whether they enjoy talking to you, whether they trust you, whether you have credibility. Everyone has a different style."

Both Murray and Castor said they've never had a legislator say or do anything remotely untoward. It may help that many people know both Murray's father and her husband, Kevin Murray, who serves as general counsel to the Marion County Sheriff's Department.

But it may simply be that, as Murray said, "We haven't tried to distinguish ourselves as females. We're just trying to do our jobs."
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