I write this as I recover from the whirlwind that is the two days of PPAI Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.). I come away from the event with new respect for the talent, organization and dedication of Anne Lardner-Stone, Seth Barnett and those at PPAI responsible for producing this event. I was equally impressed with the dedication and professionalism demonstrated by the group of volunteers who joined me in our efforts to raise awareness about the potential threats to our industry that PPAI has been able to identify by virtue of their role in advocating for our industry. I was surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the industry and the value of the discussions I was able to have while in the presence of my peers was priceless.
And then John Boehner showed up. Seriously. Out of nowhere, John Boehner walks into our dining room at the hotel and gives us an impromptu 10 minutes off the cuff about his family and the small business that they had. I’m still not certain how that occurred, but Boehner is such a lightning rod that his mere presence energized the room.
If you’ve not had the chance, I would encourage anyone with even a small interest in politics to participate in this event. I was skeptical about how our elected officials would respond to the talking points that PPAI put together for us, but was surprised at how staffers of our congressional members and senators were not only motivated to listen, but interested in how the information we provided could be their chance to assist in authoring legislation that could someday be a part of their own legacy.
For instance, we were meeting with a veteran staffer from Congressman John Dingle’s office when the topic of CPSIA came up. I noticed a decided shift in his demeanor as he sat up straighter in his chair and proclaimed, “You’re talking to the guy that authored it.” Jackpot! As you know, there are a number of unintended consequences for distributors with respect to CPSIA and after a few minutes of explanation, this staffer looked at us and said, “Well, I can see how that could cause a problem for your industry.” Jackpot again! In the next few minutes, we were given the roadmap he saw as a potential avenue to overcome some of the challenges that legislation represents to our industry and concluded that he would do some reaching out of his own to see how else he might be able to assist. Incredible.
As with any client, success is bred by virtue of the strength of the relationship you’re able to forge with the person on the other end of the transaction. L.E.A.D. and the advocacy activities of our industry in general need to be seen as a continuing relationship between the members of our industry and our elected officials. The more we can expose those who represent us to the challenges of our industry, the better protected we can be should other unintended consequences of legislation occur.
So, what should you do now? Work with your regional association to further develop those relationships. Invite your congressional representative to an industry event. Go to the many in-district events that your legislators schedule when they are back in town. Reach out to your regionals legislative Committee to help create reasons for us to start, continue and facilitate conversations with legislators. It’s important work – work that could someday prevent an attack on our industry and our livelihood.
Roger Burnett, CAS
President, 2013 RAC Board of Directors