Joshua Lamel, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer at InSight Public Affairs
“I had a civic-minded upbringing. My parents always talked about politics around the dinner table, and things that could make the world a better place. Even at a young age, I had an empathetic mind; that’s something my parents fostered in me.”
Meet Joshua Lamel. Joshua is an ardent policy advocate who founded his own shop — InSight Public Affairs – two years ago after spending the last 11 years working in the private sector at the intersection of technology, policy and consumer rights for such shops as Hill & Knowlton PR and BSR. Insight is a strategic public affairs firm for good, focusing on the representation of non-profits, coalitions and public interest causes. Joshua is an ex-pat New Yorker, a Queens native who was raised in Jericho, Long Island and moved to Washington, DC in 2002 to work for then NY Congressman Gary Ackerman, and later, Rep. Kendrick Meek and Sen. Ron Wyden. He is a graduate of Colgate University and Michigan Law School (GO BLUE!) and is currently residing in Maryland with his family. You can follow Joshua via Twitter and contact him via LinkedIn or email.
What Does He Do?
Joshua specializes in being a wonk’s wonk, and at InSight, has surrounded himself with a “Dream Team” of colleagues to take extremely complicated policy issues and create ways to get policymakers to understand them and do the right thing. This includes public relations, lobbying, digital strategy, managing diverse stakeholders and driving towards a common goal.
How Did He Get Into This Work?
“I had a civic-minded upbringing. My parents always talked about politics around the dinner table, and things that could make the world a better place. Even at a young age I had an empathetic mind; that’s something my parents fostered in me.”
While neither of his parents pursued civic-minded careers, they took pains to encourage their children to “do the right thing.” Joshua’s mother was an elementary school teacher in the early 1980’s – and among the first of our computer teachers. She took time off to raise Joshua and his sister, re-entered the workforce, but with an MS in Computer Science. While Joshua’s dad was an accountant, he always cared about making the world a better place and helping those in need. “My dad got me interested in Soviet Jewry issues in the 1980s.”
Joshua first took note of policy issues in 6th or 7th grade and was interested in how policy could make people’s lives better. He was a member of the Model Congress and participated in his first campaign during high school. Law school crystallized his thinking that his focus would be on what laws could and should be – rather than any study of precedent for its own sake. He managed to turn this into a career some 17 years ago in a job as a policy advisor in Congress. After spending six years on the Hill he made his way to the private sector, spending time at trade associations and corporate firms.
As with so many of us, the 2016 election incited Joshua to course-correct:
“It was absolutely an implicit response to Trump. He got elected and I’m doing the work I’m doing… It’s more important than EVER to be involved in doing the right thing. The 2016 election was a catalyst to get back to my roots. To do work that I truly believe in and – that was the cause of one of the many things – to leave that job and start my own thing. The work, then is much more project-based, coalition-building campaign type models.”
How Did He Come To Civic Hall?
InSight joined Civic Hall last month.
“I’ve always been an admirer of Civic Hall from afar, and as our work gets more into coalition building and partnering with civic-minded nonprofits, it was a no-brainer.”
What project is he working on?
InSight Public Affairs is known for its depth of understanding in how technology, patent law, and IP, can raise or coarsen our quality of life. It works with a number of coalitions seeking to reform legislation focused on such issues as copyright and drug patents. At first blush, that can sound dry, until you come to realize everyday implications.
- Joshua is currently the Executive Director of Re:Create, which he describes as “ a diverse coalition of stakeholders fighting for common sense balanced copyright policies that benefit Internet creators, Internet consumers, and important institutions like schools, libraries and universities.” He asserts that the advent of User Generated Content – and our ability to frictionlessly share it – has upended conventional thinking on copyright infringement: “It used to be that the only people who violated copyright were criminal enterprises. Now, almost every single person in this country is using a copyrighted work without the express permission of the author, every day. It’s as simple as a retweet – or sharing a meme. Today, you can’t have a maximalist view of copyright without consequences. If you get the balance wrong – you wake up one day to find a law you made has put 500,000 in your district into bankruptcy. I’m the person who is the deliverer of the bad news to Congress: The party’s over. Telling them what they don’t want to hear.”
Copyright is, at its core, a hybrid: A quasi-intangible property right and a monopoly of speech.
- InSight supports the work of the Coalition Against Patent Abuse (CAPA): “We’re laser-focused on telling the story of how abusive patents by pharma/biotech in the healthcare ecosystem is causing drug prices to be artificially higher.” Joshua’s Exhibit A is Humira: “It’s a phenomenal drug; it’s changed the lives with Crohn’s Disease, and rheumatoid arthritis. Last October it went off-patent in Europe.” Not so here. This is a drug that saw $4.46 BILLION in Q1 2019 alone. Joshua points out that here in the States we’ve set up a system that enables patent owners to extend market exclusivity. And that the top three drugs are responsible for a couple of percentage points in our insurance premiums alone.
Additionally, Joshua serves as advocacy lead for two other coalitions – the Better Identity Coalition (BIC) and the Cybersecurity Coalition. BIC focuses on how to partner with the government to create digitally secure identities. The Cybersecurity Coalition works on fostering the necessary public-private partnership for successful cybersecurity in our country.
What is he reading/ watching/ listening to?
While Joshua is a fan of the first two seasons of the Slow Burn Podcast (which focused on Watergate and the Clinton Impeachment) as well as the eclectic Secret History of the Future, he doesn’t stray that far from his professional focus in recommending Jeff Kosseff’s “The Twenty-Six Words That Created the Internet. At the risk of spoilers, the words in question spring from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and they are: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
“It’s so important just to remind people that with user-generated content you cannot throw out the baby with bathwater. Proposals that are intended to get at the platforms will actually hurt the USERS!!!!! I’m not defending Russian trolls, but in the process, things like targeted suicide work can get swept up!!”
What is his ask for Civic Hall?
Ask: To those who are interested in supporting Re:Create and its campaign to support artist’s rights, Joshua frames InSight’s role: “We can suggest the right point to join the movement –- be it the Public Knowledge mailing list; or, if you’re a librarian, working with the ALA. There are so many different ways to get involved.”
For those interested in following Insight’s work with CAPA on reforming the patent process and lowering drug prices: “We’re helping our coalition members; we’re one level above the grassroots.
Offer: “If [members] ever need help in thinking about how to engage in changing policy or preventing bad policy, talk to me. I can help and am always happy to!”