December 16, 2017
    Congratulations TRENDS 2017 Leading Association Lobbyists

    Congratulations to the TRENDS 2017 Leading Association Lobbyists ­– Carmen Elliott, Joe Franco, Matthew Haller and Katie Vlietstra. These lobbyists have served their associations and industries well in the past couple of years, a very interesting time in our country’s political history. The Leading Association Lobbyists will be honored at the TRENDS Salute to Association Excellence, March 1 at the Capital Hilton in Washington along with the other TRENDS honors. Know a leading lobbyist? Send your suggestion to

    Carmen Elliott, MS, Payment Policy & Practice Management VP, American Physical Therapy Association

    Over the past few years, APTA has been on a journey to be a solution in the move toward value-based pay- ment and to reform payment for physical therapist (PT) services. The need for payment and delivery system reform across healthcare is evident. Efforts to reduce health expenditures, improve quality of care, and enhance access to care is well underway. Recently, the physical therapy profession in particular was facing an uphill battle in being appropriately reimbursed for its providers’ services, because CMS was reviewing the procedure codes PTs use to report their services for payment as part of its efforts to find savings in Medicare expenditures. This two-year initiative entailed identifying codes as being potentially “misvalued” and reviewing them for possible adjustments to payment rates. Through collection of data and bringing the message of the value of physical therapy forward in a meaningful way, we were able to avoid cuts that would have been detrimental to the profession and patients it serves.

    After numerous meetings with CMS, strategizing with our coalition groups, and rallying our membership base in demonstrating the value of rehabilitative services across the overall health care continuum, we were able to stave off the cuts to these vital services. We want to improve the health care experience for individuals. Staying focused on the triple aim of healthcare – improving health for individuals, improving healthcare for societies, and containing costs – helped us move the needle. 

    In her words: First, advocating for a profession that is focused on optimizing movement to improve the quality of life in individuals is an honor. Physical therapists are an instrumental part of the healthcare system and provide critical services for improving individuals’ health and function across their lifespan. Second, in my leadership role, I am fortunate that I work in arenas that allow me to see perspectives from multiple viewpoints. What does that mean? Not only do I provide strategic direction in our advocacy and policy efforts with federal agencies and health insurance plans, but I also oversee and work closely with members in our practice management efforts, which is a business strategy intended to help our members overcome the challenges in today’s dynamic health care environment and adapt to the needs of our patients. Each area feeds into the other, which allows for us to better understand our policy needs and helps inform strategy. Last, we have a mantra at APTA- “Better together.” Advocacy requires teamwork. Through our collaborative efforts with our members, stakeholders, and coalition groups, we have made strides in ensuring our voice is heard and our patients have access to vital services. 

    Joe M. Franco, MPS, Grassroots and Internal Advocacy VP, American Diabetes Association

    The most notable achievement I have helped to accomplish for the association is growing our Diabetes Advocate network and achieving the legislative victory of increasing the federal government’s commitment to diabetes research. Through a nationwide grassroots and lobbying effort, ADA was able to secure over $100 million additional dollars in federal research and program funding for diabetes at the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease control. The grassroots campaign was a year-long battle that had over 50,000 advocates sign a petition calling for more funding, a very successful Lobby Day on Capitol Hill with Diabetes Advocates that held hundreds of meetings and was featured in leading newspapers such as Politico, USA Today, The Hill and The Washington Post. The Lobby Day was also honored by the Reed Awards as the “Best Lobby Day” of 2016. The campaign progressed with over 100 in-district meetings in the fall, and tens of thousands of messages  sent to Congress to get the additional funding increase. 

    Through our various campaigns over the past two years we have grown our advocate network by over 192 percent. These newly recruited Diabetes Advocates have taken charge and helped us achieve victories in our campaigns. Diabetes research and program funding is the critical pipeline of cutting edge discoveries that will lead to new cures and treatments for diabetes in the years to come.

    In his words: I have had the honor to work with an incredibly talented group of advocacy professionals at the ADA and they all should receive recognition for the incredible amount of work we have accomplished. The profession of lobbying is now more important than ever to our democracy and it is incredibly rewarding to work alongside passionate volunteer advocates who fight for change. With so many pressing issues in the world today, elected officials at the state and federal level are relying on advocacy staff and constituents to be informed about the needs of American citizens and how to best serve the interest of local communities. This year we have seen the incredible power of grassroots advocacy, especially in the healthcare debates and how organizations have been able to unite and make a difference on a fast moving and complicated legislative process. The human element of the legislative process will always be a critical piece of the lobbying equation and we have truly seen the power of a personal story in making policy changes in our country.

    Matthew Haller, Government Relations and Public Affairs SVP, International Franchise Association

    Haller has been instrumental in raising IFA’s legislative and advocacy profile in Washington on small business issues since joining the association in 2011. By bringing a campaign-style mentality to the issues facing its members, Haller invested heavily in building IFA’s Franchise Action Network, an army of franchise owners across the country who are ready and willing to be advocates for IFA at the federal, state and local levels on a host of challenges facing members, primarily in the labor space. When the National Labor Relations Board and Department of Labor changed the definition of a “joint employer,” putting franchisors on the hook for labor and employment violations potentially committed by their independent franchisees, that investment paid off.

    Since then, IFA has galvanized the broader business community and allies on both sides of the aisle in Congress to protect the franchise business model -- with 23 franchise owners testifying in Congress on the issue, nearly 100 in-district events with members of Congress, and hundreds of thousands of letters sent to Capitol Hill through a digital advocacy campaign. Eighteen states also have passed joint employer laws, protecting the franchise model as part of IFA’s multipronged campaign. In 2017, one of the Labor Department’s first actions was to eliminate the broader enforcement of the broader “joint employer” precedent, an early win for IFA in the Trump administration. Then in July, bipartisan legislation was unveiled by Rep. Bradley Byrne, R-Ala., to create a permanent statutory definition of joint employment, which appears to be high on the priority list for Congress to address this fall. 

    In his words: I have always loved the intersection of legislative and advocacy campaigns, from my first days at UPS starting out in Washington 15 years ago, and continuing on to help build the U.S. Chamber of Commerce political shop with Bill Miller and Rob Engstrom into the powerhouse that it remains today – understanding that “politics comes before policy.” Aggressively integrated advocacy has become essential in Washington, and I’ve tried to institutionalize that type of an approach at IFA as the organization has grown in revenue, the caliber of employee that we are looking to bring to the team and the profile of the issues we are dealing with on behalf of our members. I give all the credit in the world to my colleagues who I get the privilege of working with every day, and my former boss, Steve Caldeira, and now current CEO, Robert Cresanti, for embracing this approach. The best advice I ever received was from U.S. Chamber CEO Tom Donohue  – “hire people smarter than you, and get out of the way.” You need all the players at the table – lobbyists, your PAC and political assets, grassroots, communications and research, in order to be most effective at winning on an issue. At an association, all of our jobs are one big campaign in support of a singular cause – in our case, protecting and promoting the franchise business model. I’m lucky to represent some of the best people out there – those who have started brands and grown them and those who have put their life savings on the line to start a franchise in every corner of America. [Editor’s note: Donohue is a past TRENDS Association Executive of the Year.]

    Katie Vlietstra, Government Relations and Public Affairs VP, National Association for the Self-Employed

    As I reflect over the past two years and the advocacy accomplishments of the National Association for the Self-Employed, I am struck with the breath of our advocacy and the impact we have made for the 27 million self-employed.  This past December, we were part of a broad and diverse coalition of business organizations, consumer groups, and industry experts that successfully attached legislation to the 21st Century Cures Act related to health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs). This was a labor of love project that expanded almost four years! 

    Our success reinforced that in Washington, you can get things done across the aisle if you are methodical, honest, and transparent.

    We have been also incredibly effective in leveraging partnership opportunities on issues that are important to our members, but are not an area of expertise of our team. For example, the overtime rule proposed by the Obama Administration. While it was an issue of an importance to a segment of our membership, we did not have the internal expertise to go it alone and so we found a great partnership opportunity in joining a Coalition that was already carrying the water on the issue. For a smaller association, these opportunities to work with my colleagues across other associations is incredibly powerful.

    In her words: I am a firm believer in the power of relationships. Identifying common advocacy goals across different types of associations and political spectrums is what makes working in Washington fun and professionally fulfilling. No doubt our work can be challenging and sometimes you might have the best public policy position, and you still can’t breathe through, but that is when you roll up your sleeves and find new paths to push your legislative priorities. I love what I do and I am lucky to do it on behalf of our great members!

    Add new comment

    Filtered HTML

    • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>
    • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
    • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

    Plain text

    • No HTML tags allowed.
    • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
    • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

    Association TRENDS