From Rodeo to Leadership with Lobbying Expert, Former Intelligence Officer, and Veterans Advocate Don Bramer
SNIPPET # 164
Don Bramer laughs when he thinks back to the first time he walked onto the Fox News set in NY. “Dude, what are you doing here?” is what his inner voice screamed at him while outwardly, he was the vision of professionalism and expertise people expected to see.
That humble Southern grace remains a core part of Don today, in spite of seeing and experiencing things that hold potential to shatter a human soul and building an influential Lobbying firm in the heart of our nation’s capital.
Don describes his upbringing as modest.
“I never in all my life imagined that I’d be sitting where I am today.”
Back when he was living on his family’s Kentucky ranch, riding rodeos and enjoying life as a “dumb farm kid,” if anyone had suggested that one day he’d work amongst Washington’s most powerful politicians, become an Intelligence Officer in the United States Military, deploy several times, and then move on to found and run his own prestigious lobbying company while also advocating for and serving our veterans, he’d have laughed right in their faces.
But the joke would have been on him because Don’s done all of that and more. Don is well aware of the negative connotation attached to the profession of the Lobbyist. One of the first things he says when asked to explain what his company Bramer Group, does, is to confront the stereotype of the Evil Lobbyist. “Oh you’re a lobbyist,” he says with disdain as he imitates people’s reactions upon hearing what he does. “You fight to influence Congress,” they follow up with an even heavier serving of judgement.
What these people are misunderstanding, says Don, is the role of lobbyists. Much like looking down at Defense Attorneys until you get that ticket ,or get hauled into civil court or some other situation arises in which you find yourself or someone you love faced with navigating an unfamiliar legal world, people who have never had cause to realize the direct and significant impact a single legislative decision can have on their own lives have no true understanding of the positive impact a Lobbyist can have.
“We fight for defense. We fight for jobs. We fight for manufacturing,” he explains – and they do it well. His company is now in the second year of seeing nearly 100% of its amendments authorized or funded. He takes immeasurable satisfaction in being a part of ensuring our service members are receiving better equipment and our weapons systems and factories are being strengthened as a direct result of legislation his team plays a role in passing.
Bramer Group has also been integral in saving factories on the brink of closing and bringing much needed jobs to America.
On paper it seems to be all about numbers and regulations and incentives. But in reality it’s bigger than that. It’s about the people who are impacted.
Don recalls one particular instance which is seared into his mind. In just one month, Bramer Group saved 87 jobs in Tuscaloosa Alabama when it successfully advocated Congress to have the Pentagon reverse its decision on a weapons system that is much needed by our armed forces. That decision would have meant the closing of a company whose employees would have been devastated. Don traveled to that town shortly after those employees found out their jobs had been saved. While there, a young woman approached with tears in her eyes. “Thank you,” she said to him as she squeezed him in for a hug.
That, says Don, is why he believes in what he does. Saving jobs that save families is worth all the effort.
Once upon a time the door to our White House was open to Americans. Congressional constituents had easy access to their elected representatives and the process for advocating for personal and professional interests was more direct. It’s a lot more complicated today, says Don, to understand how the government operates.
That may be the understatement of the year, but it’s true.
That’s why Bramer Group serves as a guide to help its clients navigate the complex maps to Congress and the Administration.
So how does a farm kid from Kentucky wind up negotiating with Congress and influencing government policy, you ask?
Don Bramer traces his path back to 9/11
Before that infamous day, Don had been following a path that fate appeared to have mapped out for him.
Mitch McConnel was a first term Senator when he stopped in to visit the fraternity he’d joined in his college days. It was there that Don was reintroduced to the man who’d campaigned and won a county executive campaign against Don’s uncle back when they were both County Commissioners. The men formed a friendship from that meeting.
Senator McConnell recognized the potential in Don and recommended that he apply for an internship with his staff. From there, says Don, “the dominoes fell” until he wound up working for then Vice President Bush.
Where he may have gone next is uncertain. Perhaps he would have returned to Kentucky to work in his family’s business, or perhaps he would have stayed his professional course. But the day this country was attacked, Don walked away from either of those paths to enlist in the United States Navy. Don’s critical thinking, attention to detail, and willingness to go above and beyond to serve his country made him a perfect fit for the Intelligence Field.
Don Bramer has moved on from the Naval Reserves now. It’s a move that was right for him but which he did not make lightly. As he briefly discussed his military service, he explained the sentimental value of the lights shining on him. Two sides of the lights are molded as Ak47s.
The beams spotlight framed pictures of his team from Fallujah, and of several of the men from the SEAL Team that were killed in a helicopter crash. “Those are always on the desk,” he says as the weight of the wars and all he’s experienced in his service bears down on his voice. It’s a weight familiar to all who have served and sacrificed, and the families who must cling to the belief that there is a purpose behind the loss of someone they love.
Two other veterans run The American Freedom Fund with Don.
Between the Bramer Group’s founders, they decided to turn their first Christmas party into an opportunity to select three existing Veterans Services Organizations and suggest that the employees donate to one of those three.
From there the mission to give back evolved into The American Freedom Fund (AFF). Its three tenets are empowering Veterans through athletic, educational, and advocacy programs in Washington, D.C. and across America.
Defend Our Nation is another vehicle foundered by Bramer, as well as his associates, to continue supporting those who serve and strengthening our government by helping select veterans campaign to become elected representatives. There is support for both Republican and Democrat candidates, in theme with upholding the Bramer’s official nonpartisan practices
Like the country itself, Bramer Group is filled with people who stand for or against diverse political policies and politicians. But unlike the country at large, it has managed to find a way to work together and use those diverse positions as a strength instead of a weakness.
It’s no secret which side of the aisle Don supports. “I wear the scarlet ‘R,” he laughs. But building relationships on both sides is the beauty of his team.
He sees how soundbites are manipulated to convey whatever emotion a network wants its audience to feel.
“Most everything you see on TV is theatre,” he says. “Always remember there is more to the story.”
Don has been all over the world and understands how blessed Americans are. His hope is that Americans find their way back to being grateful to live in one of the greatest countries in the world. We can do that, he says, by turning off the TV and social media.
We can remember that the people who are our friends now will still be the same people after the election. We can resist feeding into the carefully crafted messages of divisiveness we are being bombarded with. “It’s established in a way to fuel into people’s fears,” he says.
Those who doubt in the fact that even in our worst times, we as Americans are far more blessed than so many other countries, should travel to places he’s been and see what he’s seen. “If socialism is so great, why are people in Venezuela eating out of trash cans?”
Don Bramer believes his own life is a testimony for the American Dream, and encourages others to work for theirs, too.No matter where you come from or who you are, if you’re willing to work for it and don’t expect somebody to do it for you, you can achieve almost anything. – Don BramerClick To Tweet
He’s come a long way from being bucked off broncs to where he is today. Where he goes next remains to be seen. Perhaps an election of his own is in the future, or perhaps he will continue to forge forward doing what he’s doing now. Regardless of what path he chooses, Don Bramer will continue to inspire others through leadership, and serve the country he loves.