A lobbying 'animal'

Share this content:
Dave Hebert
Dave Hebert
Dave Hebert has been affiliated with various fraternal organizations over the years, but none more famous than Delta Tau Chi.

Doesn't ring a bell? Probably because the fictional fraternity is better known as “Animal House,” featured in the 1978 National Lampoon comedy blockbuster of the same name. Yet even those who know him well might not recognize his role in the film because as an extra, he's in the background of all his scenes.

Flash forward 30 years and it's clear that over the course of his career, Dave Hebert has graduated from being a bit player to a starring role as a lobbyist on Capitol Hill. He has gone from rubbing elbows with Hollywood stars such as John Belushi, John Vernon and Tom Hulce, to working directly with Washington luminaries Ted Kennedy, Tom Daschle and Bob Dole.

Politics is in Hebert's blood. His father, Earl Hebert, served in his home state as a state representative of Michigan during the 1950s, working closely with Gov. G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams, one of the state's best-known governors. Despite this heritage, Hebert says he could not have imagined his future career path during the days when he was the University of Oregon student who started the “toga” chant in the movie that launched the toga party trend on campuses across the country.

“At that time, I could not have envisioned that I'd end up where I am now,” he admits. “But I went to law school and while I was there, I discovered a passion for politics.”

Even after realizing his political interests, Hebert didn't immediately move in that direction. He studied international law in a post-graduate program in Salzburg, Austria, and Copenhagen, Denmark, through Sacramento, CA's Pacific McGeorge School of Law.

“It was a great experience, but after two years, I came back to the States, moved to Dallas and taught junior college while studying for the bar,” he says. “I passed the bar, but didn't practice.”

It wasn't until 1983 that Hebert started to pursue his political destiny in earnest, when he became a legislative aide for Rep. Donald Albosta, longtime Democratic congressman for Michigan's 10th District. Two years later, he joined the House Wednesday Group, a conclave of moderate Republicans, as a research associate.

What Hebert has excelled most in, though, is representing healthcare associations. Starting in 1995, he spent eight years as director of federal government affairs for the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, pushing its agenda to key political figures around the Washington Beltway.

Former Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Administrator Tom Scully, a longtime friend and colleague, says the lobbyist role is where Hebert really shines. Although the two worked side by side at the law firm of Alston & Bird in Washington for two years, Hebert's truly in his element as an agent for trade groups, Scully says. 

“Pardon the pun, but Dave turned the anesthetists from a ‘sleepy' organization into a legislative juggernaut,” he says. “He did a great job for them and I'm sure Bruce (AHCA President Yarwood) is very happy to have him.”
The key to Hebert's success as a lobbyist, Scully said, is “his ability to make relationships work … he gets along with everyone.”

Having an affable personality can indeed open doors with policymakers, Hebert concedes.

“It is about finding people who will listen—members of Congress who understand our situation, who know we're straight shooters and who realize that we will do everything we can to provide them with the information they need,” he says.

Married with two children, Hebert prides himself on having high standards. 

“I won't do the hard sell and I won't say anything that is untrue,” he says. “You have to maintain your integrity in order to get people to support your cause.”

It's an approach Hebert learned from his legislator father, who died in 1991 at age 89 after spending two years in a nursing home. Working for AHCA is a way to honor his dad's memory.

“I'm very comfortable working in this industry—it is my legacy to my father,” Hebert says. “I want to help the industry that took care of him.”



While a University of Oregon student, becomes an extra in comedy classic “Animal House,” filmed at his fraternity house. Scenes: Leads “toga party” chant; 
sits on a keg 
during Dean Wormer's “double secret probation” lecture.

Becomes a legislative staffer with Rep. Donald Albosta (D-MI). In later years, serves Missouri Republican Congressmen Jack Buechner and Roy Blunt

Represents American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

Joins Washington law firm Alston & Bird, working on health policy issues. 

Becomes legislative director of American Health Care Association