“The president is going to have to turn to people who know Washington well.” Ivan Adler spoke at the CEO Update panel on the election and the future of association lobbying.
By William Ehart | November 15, 2016
Association executives are scrambling to reorder their advocacy agendas and adjust personnel to deal with a Donald Trump administration that none of them saw coming.
Jay Timmons, CEO of the $51 million-revenue National Association of Manufacturers, said lobbying strategy shifts will be a matter of tone and priorities.
“There’s not going to be a difference in what we’re advocating for,” he said at Tuesday’s CEO Update Live: Advocacy forum at the Loews Madison Hotel in downtown Washington, D.C.
“In order to be competitive, manufacturers need a change of direction in our tax policy and the regulatory side of things,” he said. “We were strong advocates for infrastructure spending.
“All of those things would have been in the mix regardless of who won the election. That said, the tone and prioritization of those issues becomes very different,” Timmons said.
“When you cut through the emotional side … you start to realize there are some opportunities for the business community to not only move its agenda forward but to do so perhaps more rapidly than you anticipated,” he said.
“There are a few areas where we are not going to see eye-to-eye with the administration, immigration and trade being at the top of that list,” Timmons said. “That puts pressure on us to make our case more effectively to the American people.”
The others panelists were Lezlee Westine, CEO of the $32 million-revenue Personal Care Products Council, Stephen Sandherr, CEO of the $19 million-revenue Associated General Contractors of America, and Ivan Adler, a principal at The McCormick Group who specializes in recruiting government relations executives.
Sandherr said AGC had a fundraising mailer prepared for Wednesday morning to ask members for advocacy support under a Clinton administration.
“We were all set to send that out with a warning to our members that we still need help here, we expect to see an aggressive regulatory agenda in the Clinton administration, and we got to save some postage on that,” he said.
The election of Trump changes the game, in some cases in a positive way, he said—AGC members have a lot to gain from Trump’s call for massive infrastructure spending.
“We are going to be shifting sides of the ball, from playing defense in the regulatory area to playing offense in both the regulatory and legislative arenas,” Sandherr said.
Westine said the difficulty of assembling an administration from scratch—with about 4,000 political appointees—gives trade groups an opening. Westine went through the process as an aide to former President George W. Bush.
“Relationships run this town,” she said. “People make policy. When you get to the White House there’s no manual. It’s incumbent on us to help them, because they need your expertise and they need your relationships. It’s a great opportunity for all of us.”
Adler agreed, and suggested Trump’s pledge to “drain the swamp” of lobbyists will turn out to be more bark than bite.
“K Street is a huge winner,” he said. “As Lezlee said, policy is made by people and there are going to be a lot of those people who have to come from the ‘swamp,’ who are going to be part of this administration whether you like it or not.
“The president is going to have to turn to people who know Washington well,” Adler said.
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