In praise of New Hampshire's lobbyists

The recent legislative session was unique in the memory of political observers and participants, as the partisanship and lack of civility in the House as well as style of its leadership all added up to an unpleasant experience for many, if not most, involved in the process.

While legislators sign up for this experience voluntarily (and get $100/yr for their trouble as what many must consider "hazardous duty pay"), others involved in the process felt abused this year, going through the process, if reports I received are accurate.

Legislative representatives, commonly known as "lobbyists," serve an essential purpose in New Hampshire. With a limited budget for background research in the Legislature, legislative representatives provide needed information, along with advocacy, so the 424 members of the House and Senate can vote on the thousand or so bills introduced each year with sufficient background. Lobbyists cannot afford to give them faulty information, since the word of such behavior travels quickly and is remembered for a long time.

Many distinguished New Hampshire former public servants and those with substantive background in the issues are among the legislative representatives. Former Attorney General Thomas Rath, the late Eugene Savage, former Senate President Ed Dupont, many former representatives and legislative staff members like Bruce Berke, are among the most prominent and successful.

Rather than getting a bad name, these folks should be recognized positively for their significant contributions to the process.*****With this background of recognizing the role of lobbyists, the death on July 2 of Elizabeth Murphy of Deerfield should be noted by all New Hampshire citizens, and certainly those in Concord who knew her well, as a significant loss, equal to that of longtime officeholders.

Liz Murphy was a warm and gracious mother and grandmother. Before she was involved in politics, she was an active member of the community in the Conway area. Liz got the political bug in the Paul Tsongas campaign for Congress in 1974, as a young woman. As with many who enjoy the process of helping others get elected, a successful experience with an admirable candidate motivated her to run for office herself, and she got elected vice chair of the state Democratic Party in 1978, not the majority party in Carroll County by any means, then or now.

In 1982, Liz Murphy ran and was elected to the Legislature as the first Democrat elected to the House from Carroll County, and served until 1984. While in the Legislature, her proudest achievement was sponsoring and seeing passed a bill imposing safety requirements on amusement rides, after a tragic accident in North Conway made the need for such regulation obvious.

She learned the lesson from that experience that one person can indeed make a difference.

As with many of New Hampshire's best representatives, Liz made a name for herself by being reasonable and by being able to see both sides of issues. Recognized for such a pragmatic attitude, she was recruited to become a lobbyist, first working for the state Business and Industry Association, the statewide voice of business. From there, Liz went to the New Hampshire Bankers Association, represented Seabrook Station (not a simple assignment), and was recognized as fair, thorough and knowledgeable by those who agreed and disagreed with her.

Bolstered by these experiences working for other organizations on tough assignments, Liz Murphy opened her own company, "Murphy Public Affairs," in 1991, attracting a large number of significant clients, like the New Hampshire Chiefs of Police, who she represented with skill for many years, consistently and effectively leading the effort to defeat expanded gambling in New Hampshire.

During the same period of time, her advice was sought and generously given to a couple of generations of New Hampshire public officials, from local officials, local legislators to governors and U.S. senators.

In 2006, Murphy Public Affairs merged with Sheehan Phinney Capitol Group. Headed by Liz's longtime friend and former BIA lobbyist, Bruce Berke, and she became senior counsel to that organization (which is affiliated with the law firm for which this writer works). She continued her effective advocacy with the Capitol Group until early this year.

Liz Murphy, as many effective legislative representatives, was most effective because people believed, trusted and, tellingly, liked her. They recognized in Liz a person who was intrigued by the process, but above all else, loved the people who volunteered their time to be involved in it. The legislators and other officials returned the favor.

Struggling with brain cancer for a number of years, Liz never lost her positive attitude or interest in what was going on in Concord and Washington, while at the same time knowing exactly what was going on with her children and grandchildren and her professional colleagues.

When Liz Murphy finally succumbed to her illness, surrounded by her family, New Hampshire lost a talented advocate, true believer and patriot who made our system better. Her example should be followed and honored by those in public office, public life and her honorable profession, because legislative representatives like Liz indeed make it honorable.

Brad Cook, a shareholder in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green, heads its government relations and estate planning groups. He also serves as secretary of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

Categories: Cook on Concord