Stewart can't find a parking spot, but he spies a friend who specializes in raising money for candidates. The fund-raiser is chatting on the sidewalk with a lobbyist from Eli Lilly, the pharmaceutical company. Stewart rolls down the window. "Gouge him," Stewart tells the fund-raiser. "He's got a ton of money. Take him for everything he's worth."
The joshing pas de deux between lobbyists and lawmakers is such an accepted and pervasive part of Washington life that it makes even the slightest squeak of populist outrage seem laughably naive. The lobbyists are everywhere; there are said to be about 12,000 of them. A guy like Jarvis Stewart, whose stated goal is to stand out, needs to be creative, which is why Stewart Partners just opened a West Coast office in Century City. Stewart's plan is to become the inside-the-Beltway liaison for celebrities—actors, record producers, rappers—who want to get their voices heard in the Capitol. He's seen plenty of these stars swagger into Washington to make one point or another, and naturally nothing ever comes of it, other than a couple of snapshots that some senator's kid can show off at St. Albans the next day. As Bono has figured out, getting anyone to listen to a pop star takes intensive work over the course of years.
Ron Gillyard, a record executive who's held top posts at Interscope, J Records, and Bad Boy, says that a lot of show-business folks have influence and money to burn but no practical sense of how to apply them. "The same thing Jarvis does for Verizon he can do for Jay-Z," Gillyard says. "Jarvis can teach them how to play on the political stage."
Kanye West is said to have an interest in keeping kids from dropping out of high school, but the way Stewart sees it, the rapper's not likely to make any real progress with the "George Bush doesn't care about black people" approach. Stewart imagines bringing Kanye West to Washington and sitting him down with a conservative senator. "How about Trent Lott?" he says. "Wouldn't that be fantastic? I'd be a fuckin' rock star. I'd have everybody licking my ass if I got Kanye West to meet with Trent Lott. We could call Trent Lott 'T.L. Smooth.'"
Stewart likes passing along these quickie tutorials in diplomacy. He remembers one night when he and Tyrone Bland met a congressman for dinner in Beverly Hills and the maître d' told Bland that they would need to wait 45 minutes for a table: "I said, 'Tyrone, one of the reasons I am such a big swinging dick in Washington is that I get what I want. Here's a hundred-dollar bill. I want to be seated within seconds of your giving him that hundred-dollar bill.' You've got to have that kind of swagger."
Apparently the swagger method worked that evening in Beverly Hills, and it worked tonight, too: Somehow Stewart has landed a prime booth at a packed and rocking F Street restaurant called the Oceanaire, even though he didn't have a reservation. He's got a glass of Maker's Mark in his hand and a towering platter of seafood on the table—clams casino, oysters, shrimp, calamari, crab cakes of almost unimaginable creaminess—and he's got majordomo corporate lobbyists like Rick Rodgers and Cliff Madison dropping by the table for a little backslappy fun. "Cliff is one of these guys who understands the policy on a whole different level," Stewart says admiringly. "When the policy is being written, that's when you want to be in play." As an example of the Great Achievements in Lobbying that Stewart holds in the highest esteem, he mentions the surge in defense spending after 9/11: "The guys who made $600 million were the guys who were in the room when the deal was being cut."