Remember when you were 5, and you told your parents you wanted to work in a candy store when you grow up?
At the National Confectioners Association, every day is like clocking in to work at a sugar-coated emporium. Wrapped chocolates, gumballs, Pez dispensers and sour gummies are littered throughout the Georgetown office space so that it looks like the Easter bunny's bedroom after a trick-or-treating spree.
But the NCA and its president, Larry Graham, don't just sit around all day eating bon bons, even during one of the biggest candy-selling weeks of the year.
Although, to be clear, they do eat candy. And lots of it. The group represents candy makers large and small who are grappling with issues like the price of sugar, and who need a lobby to represent their interests in Washington. It's a tough job, but somebody's got to chew it.
We sat down with Graham to find out what goes on at one of Washington's most colorful lobbies -- and what he thinks about Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign. We also asked him which candies best represent some notable politicians.
Tell us about your background and how it led you to this sweet job. Once upon a time ...
I was, like, eating a Snicker's bar in high school – no. I'm probably a little bit of a kind of typical trade association person in D.C. I started as a lawyer on Wall Street, New York, and then I came down here, and eventually I was the chief of staff to a congressman from Ohio, Congressman Bud Brown. He's retired now. His dad was a congressman for 25 years before him.
Then I was a counsel, legal counsel, to a committee in the House of Representatives. Back then it was called the House Government Operations Committee. I think it's got a different name now. And then a guy came to me once and said the American Hotel-Motel Association, which was based in New York, was looking for somebody in D.C. to represent them, both legally and with some lobbying, because they had a lot of tax issues and labor issues. And I said, "What's a trade association?"
That started me. I accepted that job and that started me in the association business. I won't go into all the details, but then I got a job with the National Food Processors Association, which is all big food companies that put food into a package, like Campbell's Soup and Gerber and Heinz. So that got me into the food side. And then basically I was recruited for this job, and, you know, it sounded pretty good. It was candy. Back then it was in Virginia, so close to where I lived, and it was a good product, and so that's how I got here.