Penn alum Howard Marlowe lobbies for change in D.C.
Marlowe runs a lobbying firm and leads the American League of Lobbyists
October 31, 2012, 11:12 pm·
Stepping from the halls of Penn’s student government to the halls of Capitol Hill was natural for 1964 Wharton alumnus Howard Marlowe, who has now spent more than 30 years working in the true corridors of power.
Since graduating from Penn, Marlowe has taken on a variety of roles before he finally settled into what he found to be his true calling — lobbying. Marlowe started his own lobbying firm in 1984 after working as the associate director of legislation for the AFL-CIO.
He has remained in Washington since, lobbying on behalf of local governments, nonprofits and other organizations.
While lobbyists may not have the best of reputations, Marlowe does what he can to dispel the stigma surrounding his profession.
“Everyone’s got a lobbyist,” he said. “Students have lobbyists. You have various groups that are representing different kinds of students, whether ethnically, religiously [or in other ways]. They’re lobbying on your behalf. There’s somebody there on your behalf.”
Lobbying at Penn
While Marlowe is now a nationally recognized lobbyist, he has not forgotten his time at Penn.
As an undergraduate, Marlowe spent time on the business staff of The Daily Pennsylvanian, as a representative for the men’s student government and as a writer for an underground student publication called The Shadow. It was because of an incident involving the DP through which Marlowe first realized he may have an interest in politics.
In 1962, the DP was shut down by the University’s dean of men for a few days. Marlowe, who was working on the staff at the time, saw this as a turning point for himself.
“The shutdown of the DP made me realize there were issues outside of myself,” he said, explaining that the incident opened his eyes to a number of other political issues around campus.
Soon after the brief shutdown, Marlowe found his views running counter to the University’s again. This time, it was over the Penn Bookstore, which was then located in the basement of Houston Hall.
According to Marlowe, the bookstore didn’t sell the books that students needed — or even paperback novels.
“It had nothing in terms of being a bookstore,” he said. “We felt that other Ivy League schools had decent bookstores.”
With the help of others in student government, he demonstrated and lobbied for the bookstore to improve its offerings. After contacting administrators at other schools who had better bookstores, as well as meeting with the business manager at Penn, Marlowe was successful in helping to expand the bookstore’s offerings.
“Every time I’m back there, I look at the bookstore. And I say, ‘OK, part of that was me,’” he said.
The bookstore fight aside, Marlowe’s time as a writer for The Shadow also played a formative role in his views on government and lobbying.
“It was particularly abrasive in its reporting of things that were uncomfortable to the University,” Marlowe said of The Shadow. “It wasn’t doing it to be to gratuitously nasty, it was to be rather outspoken to show their weaknesses.”
After Marlowe graduated from Penn, he went on to receive a degree from New York University School of Law. He then taught in both high school and college for a few years in New York state.
While doing this, Marlowe was also serving as president of the New York State Young Democrats, and it was this role that brought him to Washington for the first time. Someone he knew had told him about an opening on the legislative staff of some senators, and Marlowe seized the chance to apply.
He ended up working for former Sen. Vance Hartke in Indiana from 1971-75, gaining the political know-how that would prove to be valuable for his later career as a lobbyist.
After 1975, Marlowe began another job as an energy analyst, and it was this that finally pushed him into lobbying. One day, Marlowe explained, one of his clients couldn’t make a hearing and so Marlowe testified in his place.
“Although I think I did a very poor job, it showed me I had a way to get involved with the legislative process,” he said.
Lobbying in Washington
Marlowe was hired by the AFL-CIO in 1979, and five years later he left to start his own lobbying firm, Marlowe & Company.
Since then, Marlowe has advocated on behalf of many different clients, for many different issues.
One of the most memorable cases he dealt with involved getting dialysis treatments covered by Medicare, which proved to be successful.
“It was something I felt extremely good about because while I was working, there were people who I worked with who was undergoing dialysis,” he said.
But for Marlowe, it hasn’t been just one single experience that has made his career memorable — it’s been all the small steps along the way.
“Getting [the small cities and counties] the money, helping them know how to navigate through the process — it’s been particularly heartwarming,” he said.
Aside from his firm, Marlowe is also engaged in important work as the president of the American League of Lobbyists, through which he is trying to change the process of how lobbying gets done in Washington.
“He recognizes that it’s not as negative as people portray it to be, so he’s spearheading lots of reform,” said Wharton and College junior Chaitnya Jayanti, who interned for Marlowe last summer. “He’s trying to lobby for lobbying reforms.”
Marlowe is helping to “lead the charge for increased transparency of the lobbying industry,” said John Harms, one of his co-workers at Marlowe and Company.
Engagement with Penn
Despite his busy schedule, Marlowe remains involved with the Penn community, serving as a board member of Penn in Washington and as a mentor to students.
“He’s going to be a life-long mentor to me,” Jayanti said. “I’m super grateful that he’s that accommodating to students who seek help.”
2011 College graduate Evan Philipson agreed.
“I still try and see him every month, even though the internship ended the years ago,” he said. “It’s nice that we’re able to maintain a relationship. I think it’s very commendable.”