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Congress has passed little in the way of legislation in the past couple of years, but that doesn’t mean association lobbyists aren’t busy. Issues still need to be vetted, legislators still need to get information, and regulators also need to hear the voices of industry. In short, there are still plenty of opportunities for association lobbyists to make a difference for their constituencies. Here are the TRENDS 2013 Leading Association Lobbyists:
Jack Cory, Founding Partner, Public Affairs Consultants, Tallahassee, Fla.
Since 2006 Cory has represented the Florida Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs. As a result of his leadership, the alliance has been able to secure $23 million for its youth members statewide – half to assist clubs with keeping kids out of the juvenile justice system. Under his guidance, the alliance created an award-winning grass-roots campaign that gets clubs involved with their legislators, with the ultimate goal of getting appropriations. The number of clubs actively working with legislators has grown from four a few years ago to 34 of the 43 member organizations last year. The direct result of the 2012-13 grass roots campaign was $9 million in appropriations.
In his words: "Advocating for an association is very different than other forms of lobbying. I report to my president, executive director and board, but I work for every member of the association. Many associations do not have big campaign contribution funds, so we customize and professionally coordinate a grassroots program for our association clients. A strong grassroots program is essential for the success of an association's governmental affairs program. A good association lobbyist should provide data and factual information in a concise manner to public officials as well as to the members of the association. This will increase the value of being a member of the association."
Scott DeFife, Policy and Government Affairs EVP, National Restaurant Association, Washington
Recently DeFife has been a key player in successful efforts for the restaurant group, including the campaign to overturn the Bloomberg beverage ban (the NRA was one of the six plaintiffs on the lawsuit decided earlier this year). Under his leadership, the association played a significant role in encouraging the administration’s decision to delay the healthcare law’s employer-mandate penalties until 2015. He also was a leader in the Merchant Payments Coalition, which secured a key victory in July, when a U.S. District Court found the final rule on debit card swipe fees violated congressional intent.
In his words: "Lobbying for an association in today’s challenging political environment involves so much more than “shoe-leather” and relationships, which remain important, but to be successful, you have to be an advocate for the industry you represent, and you have to prepare for the unexpected and unconventional. National issues are being fought at local levels, outside the typical policymaker arena, and local challenges can become national issues overnight. You have to build and protect the reputation of the industry you represent, and blend your legislative strategy with your regulatory, legal, political and media strategies. We have focused resources on building a strong regulatory and legal foundation, but strive to take that knowledge and tell the industry's story with simple but compelling facts and messaging."
David French, Government Relations SVP, National Retail Federation, Washington
French has the distinction of being the first to have a repeat appearance in the Leading Association Lobbyists list, having made the list in 2011. Recently, in a victory for the retail industry, his efforts helped to get the U.S. Senate to approve the Marketplace Fairness Act, which authorizes states to require online and remote sellers to collect and remit states sales taxes. In-house, he has beefed up NRF’s political, grassroots and advocacy team, and bolstered NRF’s PAC and annual lobby and legislative fly-in.
In his words: “Representing the retail industry is Washington has been very rewarding. Not only do our members care about a wide range of public policy issues, but retailers are the business face of the powerful consumer economy in America. As a result, we often approach our public policy issues through the point of view of the consumer. Since consumers are also voters, I think this gives the retail sector a very credible foundation for discussing important economic issues like tax reform or patent trolls or trade with lawmakers.”
Jay Perron, Government Relations and Public Policy VP, International Franchise Association, Washington
Under Perron's leadership this year, IFA has led the effort to change the definition of a full-time employee from 30 to 40 hours per week within the Affordable Care Act, a top priority for the 825,000 franchise establishments across the country. He has also been the lead advocate for the industry on comprehensive immigration reform that includes strong safeguards for an employment verification system, as well as a robust low-skilled visa program.
In his words: "Advocating on behalf of the franchise industry is truly a privilege. It takes an extraordinary person to be a franchisee and an entrepreneur - the risks involved are enormous, but the rewards are worth it in the end. Our franchisees are creating jobs in every congressional district. I take pride in trying to provide both our franchise small-business owners and larger franchisor owners a strong voice in Washington, and give them every opportunity to succeed by educating members of Congress and the administration on the issues most important to their continued success.”
Stefanie Reeves, MA, CAE, Senior Legislative and Federal Affairs Officer, American Psychological Association, Washington
Stefanie worked to develop the mental health title within the Health Equity and Accountability Act. HEAA seeks to eliminate health disparities in minority populations. She also advocates to maintain funding for the Minority Fellowship Program through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. She was political advocacy director at American Speech-Language-Hearing Association for 10 years. She is vice chairman of the ASAE Government Relations Section Council, and volunteers on its Public Policy Committee. Reeves also is a past ASAE DELP Scholar.
In her words: “The current legislative climate makes association government relations as important as ever. We can no longer afford to stay on the sidelines and pretend that what goes on in our local, state and federal governments do not affect us. As association lobbyists, we have this great opportunity to become innovative in the way we lobby, organize our grassroots advocates and engage in political activities. It’s this energy that gets me out of bed in the morning.”
Elena Tompkins, Principal, Tompkins Strategies, Washington, Stop the HIT Coalition
Tompkins helped lead efforts with several members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to construct and introduce bills to repeal the Health Insurance Tax (HIT) provision in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Reps. Charles Boustany (R-La.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah) introduced the Jobs and Premium Protection Act, which currently has 229 bipartisan co-sponsors. Tompkins also helped drive efforts around the Senate version, introduced by Sens. John Barasso (R-Wyo.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), which has 25 current cosponsors.
In her words: "Associations play a pivotal role in Washington by employing a unified voice to carry the message of their members directly to lawmakers. Members of Congress count on this communication to better understand the needs of their constituents and stakeholders in their districts on a variety of issues. As a lobbyist, I view my role as twofold - helping to articulate these positions on Capitol Hill and, at the same time, explaining the current atmosphere in Washington to association members "outside" the beltway so they can get their message through in the most effective way possible."
Brian L. Wolff, SVP, Edison Electric Institute, Washington
Wolff worked successfully on two recent campaigns for EEI: the "Defend My Dividend" grassroots campaign that was a victory for tax dividend-paying industries; and education efforts on a rule in Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act that would have been devastating for EEI members. Under his leadership, this effort has realized success through multiple phases of rule makings; a successful Supreme Court challenge; and related litigation.
In his words: "Today's electric utility industry is the backbone of our entire economy. With the evolution and convergence of information technology and electro technology, our industry has seen more transformation and innovation in the past 10 years than it had in the last century. Our advocacy work has never been more critical to our mission than it is today. Whether it's educating stakeholders at the state house or the White House, we take our outreach to them on behalf of our customers that expect us to persuade lawmakers to keep their energy safe, reliable and affordable."