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January 21, 2006

Democrats Unveil Lobbying Curbs

The potential fallout from the Abramoff story is getting surprisingly little attention in the association blogoclump. Lemme fix that.

Although only a small percentage of associations actually do any heavy lobbying at the federal level, the ultimate trump card in many association value propositions is "we lobby for you." To say, "we lobby for you" separates associations from virtually every competitor.

So, if the face of lobbying is substantially altered (there is at least one bill already introduced that will try, and perhaps two more bills coming) is this a death sentence for associations that claim lobbying as a competitive advantage?

I doubt it. Unless you happen to work for one of the 800 pound gorillas of the association industry, your members probably couldn't care less about your association's so-called lobbying efforts. Face it: Capitol Hill is not where the majority of associations prove their value.

The worst thing that could happen from this scandal is for ASAE & The Center to get caught up attempting to defend the status quo of lobbying on behalf of the big trade associations and in so doing, miss a bigger opportunity. Let's hope that doesn't happen.


Nick said...

I have to agree and disagree with you both, but don't take it personally because you're the bomb.

1) True that many associations pull out the trump card and true that many of these same organizations' lobbying sucks.

2) I don't think you have to be NAHB to make lobbying work for you. I have worked for tiny organizations whose lobbying was awesome, and no bribing was involved. In that scenario, you can go to your members and actually talk about results you've achieved-- that's more than just saying "we lobby for you." Instead, it's here's what we did and here's what that's going to mean for you.

I generally support what ASAE is doing because I think the Abramoff case is overdone. I mean, the man screwed up and now he's been sent to the showers. Is there corruption? Yes, but I disagree that fixing it involves draconian regulations on who-what-when -where. I think that people should be free to screw up and then face the consequences.

One thing ASAE could do would be to educate the public about what "real" lobbying involves and to highlight case studies where an association is doing quality work in the legisative and regulatory areas.

I think public education is important --look at how these Indian tribes got messed with b/c they didn't know how the system works. I would hate for lobbying to be "reformed" before anyone really knew what the debate was about.

Ben said...

Thanks for challenging me to think more about this. You bring up some good points. I still think that whatever legislation may come on lobbying -- if any -- will have virtually zero effect on most associations. Most associations don't lobby enough to be significantly affected by potential lobbying limits.

Nick said...

I agree with you that the impacts will probably be minimal to most association types I know about. And maybe the proposed legislation would do some good, who knows? Theoretically, if people aren't corrupt, they don't have anything to hide. In related news, here's a press release that came across the Newswire today from ASAE.

Ben said...

Wishing I had heard about this from ASAE....