Archive for April, 2011

YOU ARE WHAT YOU READ

April 28, 2011

By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

I’m actually laughing as I write this because I just read the funniest thing ever. It is a post on a well known “research website” that advises readers to schedule time for email. In authoritative tones the author advises blocking 1 to 3 times per day for email in “batches” of 30-45 minutes. He also recommends that we avoid email as the first thing we do each morning. And, he instructs, definitely do not look at your email as you leave the office for the day.

What a riot!! This guy should be on Leno!

Well, at least we know one thing about him. He is NOT in state government relations…in April!

At 6:09pm one recent evening, one of our Legislative Associates sent an Alert to a client about a hearing in Missouri – the next day – at Noon. A long dormant bill was all of a sudden on the committee calendar.

Had my client and I been outside of our “batch” times for email, we would have missed it until it really was too late. Fortunately, we read emails constantly and were able to engage immediately. We collected a target list of legislators with contact information, performed triage on the committee and legislative process, engaged a coalition, reached out to the Attorney General’s office, determined the requirements to register as a lobbyist, drafted a letter of opposition and cleared a lobbyist to hire, if needed.

While we all love to completely disconnect occasionally, our professional reach across 50 states does not afford us that luxury often. We read a lot of email, all day long, often 7 days per week. Have to. It is the most prevalent form of communications with colleagues, lobbyists, even legislators and executive branch officials and staff. Add up the emails you send versus the times you can actually talk or meet in person and I’m sure you will agree. Email is our medium.

But, we also read other things and that is actually the main topic of this blog. While our days are filled with email, that is not enough to keep us informed. So, we polled our Issue Managers at Stateside to learn what we consider essential regular reading for our work. Here’s our list:

First, there is the trinity of newspapers: New York Times, Washington Post (our local newspaper) and the Wall Street Journal. They are the most quoted of all newspapers in political circles.

Magazines we consider essential include The Economist, Forbes, Governing and State Legislatures. The weeklies provide a broad perspective on business and global economic issues both current and projected while Governing and State Legislatures (monthlies) reflect issues more specific to state and local government, but with a considerable time delay owing to their editorial schedules. Personally, I am especially interested in the advertising as an indicator of who is investing in the marketplace.

Our web devotions were much more divergent. There was consensus that Politico.com, Huffington Post.com, instapundit.com, nationalreview.com, drudgereport.com, salon.com, TPM.com and Bloomberg.com were worth checking often.

Individually, our respective practices here at Stateside compel us to check more arcane online resources such as InsideEPA, State Tax Notes, Defense Environment Alert, Stateline, Governing, Election Law Blog, NACo’s County news, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball and Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire.

Finally, in the book category, I have just reviewed three books about lobbying for some other research I am doing and am happy to commend them to you. Hardball Lobbying for NonProfits by Barry Hessenius, Total Lobbying by Anthony J. Nownes and Guide to State Legislative Lobbying by Robert L. Guyer. While very experienced state and local government professionals will not find revelatory insights, each book organizes knowledge about lobbying and techniques in helpful ways.

If you are introducing people to lobbying (including senior executives) you will find some chapters and passages helpful. And, if you are looking for a spark to ignite a heated discussion among lobbying colleagues, please consider Mr. Nownes’ “An Overview of Nine Findings.”

I hope you find these lists helpful and if you can tear yourself away from email for a minute or two, please share your recommended reading for state and local government relations professionals.

Why Should a Corporation Care About State Worker Collective Bargaining

April 4, 2011

By Steve Arthur, Vice President

The recent high profile fight over collective bargaining rights, pay and benefits for public employees in Wisconsin is interesting to those who follow politics and government funding issues, but why should corporate executives be concerned about that fight? The obvious answer is that if public employee pay and benefits are increased, taxes will have to go up to pay for that compensation.

If it were just about pay and benefit levels that might be true, but the unions see the collective bargaining issue as critical to their future, so they will drag anyone and everyone into this fight to try to preserve their right to bargain on working conditions as well. Even companies who have not been politically active may find themselves pulled into this fight.

For example, The Wall Street Journal’s Best of the Web blog recently described how several Wisconsin public unions threatened Wisconsin companies with boycotts if they did not publicly oppose Governor Walker’s efforts to curtail collective bargaining (http://on.wsj.com/h1i4Ae). Rather than urging a boycott to express dissatisfaction with a company position, the unions threatened a boycott if the company didn’t support the union position.

Public unions are also stepping up their rhetoric against corporations. For example, to promote a national day of protest for collective bargaining on April 4, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers (AFSCME) is calling those legislators who have supported public sector pension and benefit reforms “corporate-bought politicians” on the AFSCME website. This is part of a strategy of trying to shift the focus away from the issue of pay and benefits for public employees and toward corporations and linking them to Wall Street and the recession.

As a result, some companies have decided it might be easier to simply stay on the political sidelines, hoping to keep out of the political crosshairs of unions or other activist groups. However, that could be a mistake, and not in the best interests of the company or its shareholders. Economics (and other social science) students will remember the Prisoners’ Dilemma, and a variation of it is applicable here. If only one company decides not to participate in politics, they will benefit from other companies participating. However, if many companies all make that same decision, they will cede the political field to those who do not have their best interests at heart and then all companies will suffer from the resulting public policies.

A much better strategy is to continue, or even increase, a company’s political activity and have a proactive corporate communications strategy ready to defend the corporation’s political contributions as in the best interests of the public, the company’s employees and its shareholders.

It is very possible that we are just at the beginning of a multi-year struggle over the future of the size and scope of government. Companies should decide now which side of that fight they want to be on, because it is much easier to make a thoughtful decision about corporate political strategy when the spotlight is elsewhere. But the spotlight is likely to shine regardless of the choice a company makes. Unions are making the argument that the public policy choice is between teachers/police pay versus corporate tax breaks. So companies need to decide whether to support candidates that will fight for a good business climate to create private sector jobs, or stay out of the fight and see their taxes increase and potentially have to lay off workers. The public sector unions are making sure this is the choice. If corporations stay silent, it will be a very one-sided fight.


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