Posts Tagged ‘Mark Anderson Stateside’

Partisan Debate Roils NGA Winter Meeting

February 27, 2014

By Mark Anderson, Esq., Senior Vice President

Dueling partisan messages became a surprising theme at the National Governors Association (NGA) Winter Meeting, held February 21-24 in Washington D.C. Governors traditionally use the politically-neutral NGA events to produce press opportunities and swap governance tips with their counterparts from around the nation. The partisan tack become noticeable shortly after NGA Chair, Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin (R), unveiled her initiative, America Works: Education and Training for Tomorrow’s Jobs. Republicans seized on the subject matter opportunity to steer the discussion toward traditional GOP concerns about the economic effects of over-regulation. Federal government “meddling” in issues like healthcare, transportation, and education was a popular Republican refrain.

The Economic Development and Commerce Committee’s meeting was lively, but still featured a productive dialogue between committee members and invited guests including former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation Mary Peters, former Under Secretary of Policy for the U.S. Department of Transportation Roy Kienitz and Jim Tymon, Director of Program Finance and Management for the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials.

stateside associates - state government affairs

The panel disputed a number of issues, but members agreed that Congress would likely extend MAP-21 funding, a major federal transportation initiative, only beyond the mid-term elections. Panel members encouraged Governors to push Congress for a long term transportation funding plan to ease state uncertainties about investing in infrastructure. Mr. Kienitz suggested that a standalone transportation bill with a funding mechanism is not likely to pass, but that a larger bill with tax reform and funding might make it to President Obama’s desk.

Governors discussed innovation in early childhood education at the Education and Workforce Committee meeting. The speakers included Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Maryland Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery and Alabama Commissioner of the Department of Children’s Affairs Jeana Ross. The two educators gave presentations on two different approaches, arguably driven by ideology, to early childhood education. Partisan tensions heightened the education dialogue when Vice Chair Nevada Governor Sandoval (R) and Secretary Duncan sparred over the administration’s method of distributing early education funding.

Partisan divides and even the occasional heated argument are not unusual at NGA meetings. The subtle jabs at the Administration and boasting about individual state accomplishments, however, took on an unusually confrontational flavor when likely Presidential contender, Louisiana Governor Jindal (R) took the microphone outside the West Wing. Governor Jindal criticized President Obama’s stance on the minimum wage issue during a press conference immediately following a bi-partisan meeting between the Governors and the President. Connecticut Governor Malloy (D) quickly criticized Governor Jindal’s opportunistic use of the situation stating, “Here’s a guy [Jindal] who didn’t come to any of the meetings except this one today, and has the nerve to pull that stuff on everyone, ten feet from the West Wing.”

The NGA, as always, is tackling substantive issues critical to the success of state governments. That overarching political pressures brought out the partisanship at its Winter Meeting this year is good reminder that the organization is, at times, beholden to the politics – and ambitions – of its membership.


Mark Anderson is Senior Vice President working at Stateside Associates managing the Regulatory Services Division. He advises clients on engagement strategy and directs educational and “grasstops” campaigns directed at governors and regulatory officials. Mr. Anderson also has created issue advocacy coalitions and facilitates work group meetings of state and federal stakeholders addressing environmental issues.

Defending Your Government Affairs Program from Shareholder Petitions

October 11, 2012

By Mark Anderson, Senior Vice President

As Chair of the American Bar Association’s (ABA) Government Affairs Practice Committee, I participated recently in an instructive CLE session addressing shareholder petitions that require the disclosure of political activity. While these petitions are not new phenomena, recent events including the Supreme Court decision in the Citizens United case, have raised the profile of the issue. Because even the prospect of a shareholder petition on political transparency could have a damaging impact on a government affairs program, preparation is the best way to defend against—or even avoid altogether—a shareholder petition.

According to the Conference Board, while the number of shareholder petitions rose dramatically after Citizens United (from 40 in 2010 to over 100 so far in 2012), the success rate between 2011 and 2012 fell from 30 percent to just over 20 percent. The petitions ranged from requiring disclosure to shareholders of certain types of political activity, to more draconian measures such as a cease and desist of all political activities.

A reason for the diminishing return is likely the proactive and effective ways that many companies are now dealing with the petitions, or even acting in advance of a petition. Understanding that corporations have different policies and procedures governing political expenditures such as campaign contributions, there are some common methods by which corporations have effectively dealt with the transparency issue without crippling their government affairs programs. The following are a few tips to help you to be prepared to defend your government affairs program in light of this rise in shareholder petitions.

  1. Understand that there are activist groups that have been advancing this issue. The Center for Political Accountability has a model shareholder petition online and the Corporate Reform Coalition has an “activist toolkit” for use on political transparency issues. Some of these groups are promoting this transparency to stifle political contributions from corporations. First, they compel a company to disclose its contributions, then they can use an issue (often not business-related) supported by a candidate to threaten boycotts or pickets based on a single corporate contribution to that candidate. Therefore, the movement should not be considered an organic uprising of shareholders, but an organized activist effort aimed at your corporation.
  2. It is more difficult to defend a political contribution to a candidate, a stance on legislation, or a membership in one the groups of state and local officials in the absence of information about why it was done. So make guidelines available to your shareholders that outline qualities you support in candidates and policies your corporation supports. For example, you may support candidates that promote a certain tax stance or whose platform supports a more favorable climate for business. If you have outlined that beforehand, you will be better prepared to defend a political contribution and combat the notion that you support every tenet of that candidate’s platform including non-business issues.
  3. Given all of the rhetoric about corporate spending, your shareholders probably think that you are doing many things that you are not, so ask your shareholders what information they would like to have about corporate political spending.
  4. Use the discourse with shareholders as an opportunity to build understanding about the role that government affairs plays within the corporation. By actively engaging, much of the distrust that often builds in the absence of information may dissipate—or even be replaced with an understanding the value that government affairs may add to the corporation and shareholders.

The possibility of a shareholder petition can be a chilling event. However, being prepared to defend your government affairs program can certainly help to alleviate many of the concerns and raise confidence that your program will be able to withstand challenges by activist groups.


Mark Anderson is Senior Vice President working at Stateside Associates managing the Regulatory Services Division. He advises clients on engagement strategy and directs educational and “grasstops” campaigns directed at governors and regulatory officials. Mr. Anderson also has created issue advocacy coalitions and facilitates work group meetings of state and federal stakeholders addressing environmental issues.


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