Erika Lovley at Politico Click interviews Cicely Simpson, director of federal and state government affairs for Dunkin’ Brands, who has one of the most scrumptious lobbying jobs in town.
Why do doughnuts and coffee need a lobbyist?Dunkin’ Brands includes both Dunkin’ Donuts and ice-cream chain Baskin-Robbins. We’re a small-business corporation by nature — all of our 15,000 restaurants are 100 percent franchised. We’re involved in a lot of small-business issues, as well as nutrition, taxes, immigration and trade. Much of our coffee comes from Colombia, so we’re also involved in trade agreement issues.
Settle the score for us: Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Starbucks. Who is winning? Dunkin’ Donuts is the No. 1 retailer of hot and iced regular coffee in America. We’re also the biggest coffee and baked goods chain in the world. But I don’t lobby for Dunkin’ against Starbucks. In fact, we often find ourselves working together on the same issues for the good of our industry.
Who is a fan on the Hill? Lawmakers in the New England delegation are huge fans. People are constantly volunteering what flavors they love and what doughnuts they dislike and asking why a certain flavor of ice cream disappeared. It’s a fun, easy way to break the ice.
Do you bring doughnuts and coffee when meeting with lawmakers? I do get asked from time to time, but most people are pretty mindful of the lobbying rules that restrict gifts and food. Doughnuts are cheap, so they might fit within the regulations, but we’ve never tested the limits.
What happened to commercial star Fred the Baker and his famous catchphrase “Time to make the doughnuts”? He passed away back in 2005. But people often ask about him, then sing the commercial jingle to me.
Would you get fired if you were caught with a cup of Starbucks? I wouldn’t want to test it out, but it’s never been an issue, because I drink all Dunkin’, all the time. I also insist on paying full price.
Did you always aspire to be a food lobbyist? I previously worked on the Hill as a staffer for two Blue Dog Democrats, and when I left, I wanted to stay involved with the Hill. But did I ever picture myself as the doughnut/ice cream/coffee lady? I think it’s safe to say no. But people always remind me: “Wow, how could you get a better job than this?”