As you read this article, more than 50 of your industry colleagues are preparing to visit their members of Congress on March 31 for the second PPAI L.E.A.D. (Legislative Education & Action Day). This is the opportunity for our industry to establish relationships and educate our legislators about the impact, reach and importance of the promotional products industry.
L.E.A.D. participants, along with other active members, staff and our Washington lobbyists, are working to ensure that PPAI and the industry have an active voice in legislation that is harmful to our industry.
Now I know what you may be thinking as I’ve heard these comments from several members: “We cannot change policy in Washington. We do not have a PAC fund (Political Action Campaign), so they will not listen.” But the history of PPAI tells us differently. Allow me to give a few of the many examples of our success:
• In the early 1960s, some members of Congress wanted to repeal the tax-deduction limits ($25 on business gifts and $4 on imprinted items). Mobilizing members of the Advertising Specialty National Association (ASNA, which later became PPAI) and the Advertising Specialty Guild proved to be a successful resistance against the repeal.
• In 1964, the Department of Defense issued a directive prohibiting its civilian employees and military personnel from accepting gifts from businesses. Specialty Advertising Association legislative counsel George Lamb convinced the department to change the directive.
• In 1983, then legislative counsel Malcolm MacArthur was successful in getting the Depository Institution Deregulation Committee to reject a proposed ban on premiums by banks and thrifts.
• Some years ago, The Walsh-Healy Act barred distributors from doing more than $10,000 in business with the government. Our Association president at the time, H. Ted Olson, MAS, along with MacArthur and St. Louis distributor Arthur Jablon, were successful in lobbying for an industry exemption.
• Former Association Chair Bill Epstein recommended to the Board of Directors in 1982 that our Association convene the first Legislative Conference (forerunner of L.E.A.D.) that brought staff, the board and members to Washington to meet their representatives. Four years later another Legislative Conference was convened. “All of us came away with the realization that this is our government—yours and mine—and they do listen,” Epstein said.
Your regional legislative committees, PPAI’s Government Relations Action Council (GRAC), PPAI staff and John Satagaj, our legislative and general counsel, are doing a terrific job in keeping us focused on the common goal of establishing personal relationships with our senators and representatives and their staff. We cannot, however, attain this goal without your help.
Many of you have sold promotional campaign items to senators and representatives and established relationships to get our message out. Please contact Anne Lardner-Stone, PPAI’s director of public affairs, at AnneL@ppai.org to find out how you can make a difference.
Your member value statement does not show the value of our legislative action, but it is priceless to our industry.
Erik Ekstrand, MAS, is senior vice president of Chagrin Falls, Ohio-based distributor The Mort C. McClennan Co. (UPIC: MCMCC).