April 18, 2013
We all know how important it is to get your voice heard in Washington. Given the state of the economy and numerous legislative initiatives concerning taxes and expenditures, that importance cannot be overstated.
That’s why for the last four years, the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) has sent a contingent of “volunteer lobbyists” to our nation’s capital to speak on behalf of the industry as part of its Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.).
On April 10 and 11, as a member of PPAI’s Government Relations Action Council (GRAC), I joined over 70 volunteers who invaded Washington, D.C. on a mission to educate members of Congress about the value of advertising specialties and the legislative issues most important to suppliers and distributors. The group represented all 50 states and made over 300 Congressional office visits during the two-day period.
Prior to arrival, we contacted our respective senators and representatives to schedule 30-minute visits. In preparation, volunteers also attended a webinar on key issues we later discussed with our representatives and/or their staff. Everyone became well-versed on the promotional products economic engine and its impact on the national economy, e.g., a $19.4 billion industry that employs over 430,000 people.
Here’s a tip: If you want to get a representative’s or senator’s ear, just tell them what your industry does for the economy!
To help prep the “lobbyists,” everyone was given a handbook with each Congressional member’s bio and broken into smaller teams to cover the aggressive meeting schedule. The volunteers gave each Congressional office position papers on the effectiveness and value of promotional products and the role they’ve played in particular in safety recognition programs. We also discussed the importance of maintaining the current independent contractor tax rules under IRS Section 530 and of considering small businesses in any proposed tax changes.
Of course, we also handed out advertising specialties: a notebook imprinted with the PPAI logo and hand sanitizer. Everyone loved the products, which provided the perfect testament to the effectiveness of our industry.
Before we met for dinner that night, we were surprised by an unannounced visit from John Boehner, the House Majority Leader, who commended everyone for their efforts. Clearly, the L.E.A.D. visits were noticed by the powers that be. The next morning, PPAI recognized Minnesota Rep. Erik Paulsen as its Legislator of the Year. The award recognizes members of Congress who have shown a commitment to small businesses, a willingness to meet with industry professionals and support of issues critical to our industry.
“Congressman Paulsen has championed the cause of small business and met face-to-face with industry leaders,” said Paul Bellantone, PPAI’s president and CEO. “He has established a history of being available and listening to the concerns of promotional products businesses and supporting or opposing legislation that impacts the industry.”
The diligence and enthusiasm of the PPAI L.E.A.D. volunteers was evident from the planning stages through the Congressional visits. I’m sure Congressional leaders left the meetings with a greater appreciation of our industry and the important role it plays in providing businesses with creative, cost-effective ways to reach their target audiences.
– Chuck Machion is ASI’s senior VP and senior counsel and also serves his community as a Newtown, PA borough councilman
In photo above, from left: Art Bustard, president of Cedars Advertising, Inc. (asi/159500); Larry Whitney, compliance manager for Polyconcept North America (asi/66887); Barbara Bustard, of Cedars Advertising, Inc.; Chuck Machion; PA Rep. Tim Murphy; George Jackson, owner of George Jackson Promotions; Bruce Korn, president of Zakback Inc. (asi/365556 )