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Peggy Welsh Winds Up: NARUC's New Exec Wants PUCs to Network with Congress Joseph F. Schuler Jr.

Fortnightly Magazine - July 15 1997

regulatory background to bring to NARUC.

"The mere fact that they hired me should tell you that they have a lot of good vision," Welsh says of her new employers. "They know what they want. They know the kind of skill set they need to represent them in Washington and they weren't afraid of the baggage that came with me."

Of course it doesn't hurt that Welsh lobbied Department of Energy Deputy Secretary Elizabeth A. Moler back when Moler was a legislative aide. Or that she counts Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-Colo.) as an acquaintance and can call others by their first names in agency and political hierarchies. But Welsh pooh-poohs the "greased skids" thinking, declines to share stories of her professional friendships and says all she has is her reputation.

"It's just hanging around town for a long time, representing a particular industry for over 12 years that I've developed the relationships I have," she says. "All I have, all anybody has, is their personal credibility. ... I have very good personal relationships with ... a lot of people in Washington because of my ability to articulate our point of view."

She says she nurtured connections by not drawing lines in the sand.

"And that's what I intend to do [here]. ... The states, I think, have a reputation of early on drawing a line in the sand. It's not true, but because they have a fiduciary duty of articulating state authority, it's often all anyone hears. They don't hear the productive suggestions that are sometimes behind that message."

Welsh doesn't appear afraid of the quid pro quo baggage delivered with NARUC either, particularly when it comes to the group's sometimes lackluster record on high congressional visibility and effectiveness. Even a NARUC staffer will confide that although the association shares good ties with committee staffers, ties are weak with some other members and their staffs.

"They really did want to hire somebody whose skill sets would be able to do that from the get-go," Welsh adds. "And that's what I've done since I got here and that's where the Washington Action Program comes into play: Let's organize ourselves. Let's not do it ad hoc. Let's have a strategy in place, like every other trade group in town."

The Washington Action Program, ironically, has its roots in the debate over last year's Telecommunications Act, when the perception was that NARUC took its position too late.

"I think that a lot of people would probably agree with that perception," outside and inside NARUC, Welsh says. "We did learn from our efforts in the telecom bill and we feel like we are in a position to be proactive in the electric industry debate.

"You can't control the congressional schedule. So no matter who you are, you're going to be reactive to the congressional whims. But we can spend a lot of this time when the debate is not in a frenzied mode educating the Hill, rather than waiting until the debate is in a frenzied mode."

The Washington Action Program will call on state utility