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January 26, 2006

Jack Abramoff and Lobbying Reform: Legislating for the Bad Apples

Lest you think I've already made up my mind on lobbying reform, here's an alternate opinion on the matter from the National Association of Manufacturers' blog:

Jack Abramoff and Lobbying Reform: Legislating for the Bad Apples

As I suspected, even the congressional travel activity of NAM (one of the 800-pound gorillas of the association industry) is mighty low. Seven tours in 2004, eight in 2005. But as an association that employs more than 30 lobbyists to protect their members' interests, I can understand why NAM is concerned about lobbying reform.

But, as an association whose membership is overwhelmingly comprised of associations that don't lobby heavily, I don't understand why this is ASAE's fight. And still no official communication to members on the matter.

Let the home builders, phamaceutical companies and gun owners fight this one.


Kristi Donovan said...

Ben -
I think you are severely underestimating how many associations need to engage in lobbying efforts to protect member interests. First, I want to note that beyond the seemingly sexy trips that some assns organize, another thing to keep in mind is that, many times, those same staffers are asked to participate in meetings or conferences associated with those trips in an effort to educate members. Maybe 45-60 minutes on stage at a conference sounds like a small price to pay for a trip to Vegas, Miami, Chicago or Omaha, but from an educator's perspective, it does bring significant value to conference programming.

More importantly, any association that has any interests that are affected by federal authority or regulations have a responsibilty to lobby on behalf of their members' interests. Beyond home builders, pharm, and gun owners, there are the health care industries, education, financial, entertainment, construction, transportation industries, etc. The collective power of the members of those industries (via assns) enables them to effectively (we hope) communicate with members of Congress. Associations are the organizing force. Lobbyists exist simply to represent their clients. Their clients are represented by the thousands of associations represented in ASAE. ASAE has a very important role in this. I just wish they'd put it on their web site.

Ben said...

Thanks for chiming in, Kristi. I follow you.

Let me clarify my position by stating that I'm not debating the member value of congressional travel or lobbying. I'm concerned that ASAE is entering into a high-stakes, highly visible battle where the majority of its members stand to gain very little if ASAE wins. ASAE will have to spend a lot of political capital to win this fight, and the victory, if it comes, won't significantly benefit the majority of the organizations that it represents.