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Lobbyists Looking for a Win at the Hoops

Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) may have a tough day job working on both the House Budget and Ways and Means committees, but he’ll really have his work cut out for him on Tuesday night when he tries to drive the lane past 6’3” stalwart center Rhod Shaw, a partner at the lobbying firm Alpine Group.

No, this isn’t the twilight zone; it’s the sixth annual Hoops for Hope charity basketball game, which pits members of the American League of Lobbyists against Members of Congress to raise money for charities benefiting area children.

“It’s an opportunity to get on the court and push and shove the Congressmen without getting into any trouble,” ALL President and Hoops for Hope Founder and Co-Chairman Paul Miller joked. “But most importantly, of course, it’s a really good chance to help out a good cause.”

Seven years ago, Miller and former Rep. Jack Quinn (R-N.Y.), both basketball enthusiasts, began playing with the idea of organizing such an event, observing that while there were many other charitable sports events on Capitol Hill, none took place on the basketball court between lobbyists and Members of Congress. After presenting the idea to the American League of Lobbyists’ Foundation and teaming up with Former Rep. Tom Barrett (D-Wis.), to round out both sides of the aisle, the bipartisan Hoops for Hope was born and the first game was played just six weeks later.

“It’s always been great for the kids,” said Quinn, who coached the Members of Congress for the last several years. “But I also believe that whenever you can get together informally on the Hill for any reason, it helps build the friendship and morale that is missing these days in such a highly partisan environment.”

The game also puts lobbyists in the unusual position of trying defeat and embarrass the very Members of Congress whose favor they often court. After winning five out of six games — including four straight wins — against the lobbyists, rumors have been circulating that the lobbyists are just letting the Members win every year. Not so, according to Miller.

“Whoever wins gets bragging rights for an entire year,” Miller said. “We take these games very seriously, we are very competitive. Believe me, we don’t like getting trashed every time out on the court.”

Unfortunately for Miller and the lobbyists, however, the Congressional squad might have gotten even stronger just in time for next week’s game.

Hulshof, co-chairman of Hoops for Hope along with Miller and Quinn, is considering pulling in a little talent from his home state to coach the Members of Congress. That “little talent” is none other than Quin Snyder, head basketball coach at the University of Missouri. The other Quinn, now president of the lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates, will be coaching the lobbyists this year. But he doesn’t seem to feel any guilt about the switch.

“It’ll be Quinn vs. Quin and only the mighty will endure at the end of the night,” the Quinn with two n’s laughed. “But the other Quin is a fabulous coach, whose style I love, and while there’s no way that I can compete with him, I think I have the players who can. After coaching the Members of Congress for all these years, I also happen to know all of their weaknesses. I think I better leave it at that.”

All funds raised from Hoops for Hope go directly to Horton’s Kids and Hill Help, both nonprofit organizations started by Hill staffers and dedicated to helping needy children throughout Washington, D.C., with tutoring and mentoring programs. All of the children who benefit from this event come to the game to watch, eat pizza and meet the players. To date, the basketball games have raised more than $120,000.

The game will be played Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the Smith Center on the campus of George Washington University. Admission is free and the game is open to the public.

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