Pitching Jefferson City Missouri State Capitol Art

By Lobbyist Travis H. Brown

Every year, for at least five months or more, professional lobbyists like me wear out a few pairs of shoes working the granite halls of Jefferson City’s Missouri State Capitol.  Having passed more than 10,000 logged hours there just over the last decade alone, it is easy to overlook many of its arts and cultural attractions that give advocates a working office that is also one of America’s greatest living museums.

However, during the summer months when the State Legislature is not in session, the walls of Missouri’s social history told by our finest genre artists seem to speak with a greater voice.  Maybe it is because my mind is not as bound on multi-tasking from debating legislation, moving from committee hearing to floor action, or hosting the next Saint Louis or Kansas City in-bound client.  It could also simply be from the relative absence of humanity that energizes the Missouri General Assembly.  Without 163 members running in and out of their offices, to appropriations meetings, to press conferences or public policy meetings, it is as if the building’s presence shifts from hotel concierge to more of a wandering tourist.

Perhaps, as an oil painter myself, it is my recognition for how hot the House Gallery must have been for Thomas Hart Benton.  More than 80 years ago, it is easier to imagine why more than a few State Senators or State Representatives might have scoffed at the nature of his art work.  However, a deal was a deal – Benton could paint anything he desired within his two year deadline, provided that it had relevance to Missouri’s social history.  There have many days where visiting trade groups or business associations were caucusing about their Capitol Day in this very gallery, only to be interrupted by many others passing through.   Imagine the curious smell of Benton’s 35 dozen eggs that he used to make his mural in the heated months of June, July, and August.  Imagine listening to the comments from his fellow State Senators who wondered why painting a baby’s diaper at a political town hall would have been more justified than discussions of the old Confederacy.  The scaffolding mess that Benton eventually concluded must have seemed a lot like the first public reactions to the Eiffel Tower.

Thankfully for all Missourians and our tourists, these unique works have survived the test of time despite early criticisms.  If you are not one of our frequent guests returning to speak, lobby, visit, or vote within our State Museum, then I can recommend to you this book worth exploring by Priddy and Hall.  This book is an excellent coffee table display of how Jefferson City lobbied for and secured one of America’s greatest public art collections of our day.

Five Scenarios for A Missouri Lobbyist to Use General Aviation

By Travis H. Brown

Contract lobbyists that survive past ten years of state & local experience know all too well that time is usually the most limiting variable within your professional services.   Clients seem to want help promoting, passing, progressing, or defeating legislation at the same time periods within any given legislative session.  While State Capitols may vary, the demands on a corporate client’s industry most often requires a state affairs director to juggle one day in Jefferson City with another meeting in Columbus.

For lobbyists less familiar with precisely what general aviation offers those who may be influence-peddling in the morning, while campaigning in the afternoon, I offer the following five Jimmy from Seinfeld scenarios to explain how plane makes for gain:

  1. Lobbyist Travis Brown has a Sunday night meeting with healthcare clients who cannot easily meet during the week in Kansas City.  Due to their prolonged dinner meeting, a late night return drive is no longer optimal.  An early Monday morning hearing or legislative briefing before 9 am in Jefferson City prompts Lobbyist Travis Brown to shorten his two hour car ride into one 30 minute flight to optimize both meeting slots.
  2. Lobbyist Travis Brown needs to meet several new candidates for office that his clients may wish to support for higher office.  Three of the top five candidates are having their major fundraisers or town hall debates within the same week.  Each of the candidates are from completely opposite corners of Missouri, making a show me state drive or shared commute with other lobbyists impractical.  Due to campaign deadlines, and future travel obligations, lobbyist Travis Brown chooses to flight plan all candidates within one full day of short excursions.
  3. Lobbyist Travis Brown has held an important ballot strategy dinner appointment in Saint Louis with a major client and his guests for eight weeks now.  However, after a long day of legislative committee hearings in Jefferson City, followed by two Capitol Lobbying Days on the same afternoon, Travis is running late to make his dinner on time.  To make matters worse, an emergency meeting with a State Senator has been called for 9:30 pm back at the State Capitol on a pressing policy matter.  Travis Brown chooses to correct his schedule by compressing four hours in a car into less than one hour to and from the State Capitol with time to spare for his last caucus meeting.
  4. Lobbyist Travis Brown has agreed to speak at both a morning radio show in Springfield and a chamber of commerce debate in Joplin months in advance on the same day.  Within the last 72 hours, it becomes important to attend an issue advocacy conference in Washington, DC that starts bright and early the next morning.  Since Travis can be joined by copilots and his film production crews if he flies, he arranges private aviation to make all of his travel segments on time.
  5.  Lobbyist Travis Brown is having a great legislative session in Jefferson City, but has seen little of his newest industry client near the Missouri River.  His government affairs client handles state & local public affairs across at least eight Midwestern States.  Due to new industry regulations and several crisis communication projects, his client is only available to meet this week in Chicago.  As it turns out, Travis was headed to Des Moines, Iowa earlier on the same day, after his legislative testimony was finished mid-week in Jefferson City.  By flying onto Chicago from Des Moines, Travis is able to join the industry meeting and compress a three day slot of client prospect travel into one overnight trip.

I use these third person references because my life, and the lives of others on which I depend, have been improved through the vigilant use of general aviation.  America is a big place, and lobbying across the fifty states and some major cities can quickly take its toll as a carpet-bagging frequent flyer.  While using airplanes is very important to me since I am my own owner-operator pilot, it is also very important to thousands of small communities.  The Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) produced some great studies that outline the 1.2 million jobs that are sustained by one flight after another.  Many Governors themselves depend on private pilots themselves, or are familiar with how worldwide aircraft manufacturing is lead from states like Kansas, Georgia, Missouri, or Washington.

Like most freedoms, the price to use it is responsibility.

A Look at Tuscan Reds Under Golden Sun

By Travis H. Brown

Recently, I had the pleasure of exploring most of the Italian Wine Regions within Tuscany, with a particular focus on their signature red wines.  For the focus of our wine buying we started North in Florence, and moved South past Siena, as we navigated the scenic countryside.

By way of explanation, the vast majority of our wine buying for clients and entertainment insists on following only those vineyards of high quality at medium to higher price points.  In Italy, there are two designations under wine law to guide you to consistent quality:  Denominazinione di Origine Controllata, or “DOC,” and the highest appellation designation, Denominazione di Origine Controllata e Garantita, “DOCG.”  It is to be noted that there are many fine Italian wines that do not carry the DOC label, but rather are IGT wines.

To the north end of Toscana, it’s about Chianti Classico, which in most cases gives you the higher altitude, bone dry, sangiovese wine that many Americans love.  We found all DOC-labeled chiantis to meet our expectations, but our palettes were looking for something more complex.  Before we leave Chianti Classico, however, it is worth noting that their viticulturists are collaborating in many creative ways to promote their region, mostly through the label marketing of the black rooster.  Most Chianti Classicos (DOC grade or better) were selling on or above 25 euros (or roughly $35-40).  Along the way, we stumbled across Percarlo wines from Chianti, which were dynamite for us.

While all of Tuscany is panoramically-beautiful, our quest for the best red wines quickly narrowed us to the summit town of Montalcino.  This one little isolated town has preserved perhaps the best rendition of Sangiovese for centuries, off the beaten path, at the base of Mount Amiata.  It was this volcano that helped create the rich soil diversity, terroir, and atmospheric protection from cloudbursts and hailstorms.   Only Sangiovese grapes found within the municipal territory of Montalcino carry the famed label:  Brunello di Montalcino.  Only 15% of these 24,000 hectares of land is occupied by vineyards since the Etruscan times.

Certainly the international reputation of Brunello means that you can find some great selections in many fine dining establishments within the United States.  However, our buying focus was to find a few great local producers not likely to be marketed by most brokers and large suppliers.  Toward this end, we got help from the friendly owners at Enoteca La Fortezza di Montalcino.  Giorella rolled out a fine map that every serious Brunello buyer should have from the Consorzio del Vino Brunello di Montalcino.

We sampled more than a dozen local producers (out of several hundred available) from all four corners of this small Montalcino territory:  the north (for fresh & elegant styles), the east (for robust styles), the south (for sunny fruit expressions), and the west (for classic dry spices).  Our three palettes ended up rating the Terre Nere the best overall.  We liked Mate as a producer for their expression of spices.  If you sample the wines there, make sure to also sample the local honeys for dessert.  For a main course in Tuscan, one must try the ragu pasta with wild boar to be completely indigenous.

My experience in Italian-American restaurants is that they tend to give you a more limited exposure to the incredible diversity within this one varietal.  The Terre Nere 2006 & 2007 releases gave us strong red fruits with pinot noir smoothness up front, followed by a long finish into soft tannins and well-balanced earthy spices.  If you’re feeling intimated about an Italian wine selection, remember and use “Brunello” as your flag word from which to start a great red wine experience.

When it comes to reds, Tuscany is the gift that keeps on giving.  We made it over to Montepulciano just about 45 minutes east of Montalcino for a completely different excursion.  Here, we sampled the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (or VNM), a blend of several local red varietals though by papal lords to be a perfect expression of a red wine.

What I expected from these tasting would be grapes with a wild side, something perhaps the Grenache-driven Chateauneuf de Papes that we’ve had in the Southern Rhone.  However, to my surprise, I found these reds (granted, mostly riservas) to full of violets in the nose, and smooth on the finish.  We can recommend Politiziano and Avignonesi as well-known producers that you can likely find.  However, we also found some newcomers, like Dei, a lady singer/entrepreneur making new waves near the town with even more feminine fruit notes in her bottles.

Avignonesi’s Desiderio

Despite our focused adventure to buy the classic labels this trip, we could not help but notice (and try) many of the new red blends or new varieties that have emerged across Tuscany.  Both Syrahs and Merlots are making their way through the next generation producers, with some noteworthy success.  I found both (near Cortona) to impart strong Montepulciano earth notes.  Their alcoholic content was a bit higher than expected (> 14%),  but one Italian sommelier assured me that such labels were often given higher numbers than actually what is bottled just to be safe with Italian regulators.

Italian wine tasting without a Brunello experience is like a wedding without a cake.  There are many more wines that are super than just the Super-Tuscans.