July 2007 - Editor's Perspective

Advocating Advocacy

A couple months ago-in early May-I flew from my Southern California home to Washington, D.C. for ERA’s Annual Government Affairs Fly-in. I was excited about the trip-I was eager to learn more about Net Neutrality, privacy and data security, the Streamlined Sales Tax Project and other important issues facing our industry. And, of course, I looked forward to spending a couple of days with industry friends and ERA staff who would be in attendance.

However, I have to confess that-along with an appropriately conservative-styled suit and tie-I also packed a healthy amount of skepticism. Here I was, traveling to our nation’s capital to meet with Congressmen. To “make my voice heard.” It seemed like such a fanciful, quixotic view of government-an almost naïve course of action in this day of power brokers and influential campaign contributions. “That’s how things get done in Washington,” and all that.

As it turns out, it was my view that was naïve. First of all, I was discounting the amount of influence our group (yours truly excepted) wielded. The 70 or so business leaders that I joined on Capitol Hill that day in May employ thousands and generate many millions of dollars for their local economies-a fact not lost on the elected representatives.

But even more important, I was discounting the willingness-”eagerness” may be a more appropriate word-of the Senators and Congressmen (and their staffs) to listen to our positions. Without exception, the staffers that my team met with were cordial, exceptionally bright and articulate, extremely well versed on the issues and 100-percent engaged in our meetings. Despite their packed schedules, we were never rushed. There were no furtive glances at watches-just earnest discussion and debate.

Did we win any votes? It’s impossible to say. I am certain, though, that our viewpoints were heard. And, as Bill McClellan, ERA’s vice president of government affairs, explained to me, that’s the important thing. “As long as you’ve got a seat at the table, you can put the industry in a better position. When businesses-and consumers-mobilize they can make a huge difference, even in the face of daunting opposition,” McClellan says. “We see it every year, and it doesn’t matter the political context-there are candidates and issues with huge financial backing and victory or passage is all but conceded. But the opposition wins. Why? The opposition mobilized; people got involved. Our success last year in the fight for Net Neutrality is a great example.”

Senator John Kerry echoed these sentiments when he delivered the keynote address at the Fly-in, congratulating the group on their participation in the legislative process and urging us to remain involved in government affairs. Senator Kerry was also gracious enough to grant us an exclusive interview, which was the basis for this month’s cover story, “A Senator’s Perspective.” We hope you enjoy his informed and candid insight on a wide range of topics and key issues that impact our industry today-or which may arise in the near future.

We also hope you’ll jump into the arena and become an advocate for issues facing your business and the industry in general. If you’re something of a cynic-as I was-you may find it a rewarding and truly eye-opening experience.

Tom Dellner
Executive Editor


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