Inside PPAI: Industry Leaders Hold 300-Plus Meetings On Capitol Hill

Above photograph: In its 10th year, L.E.A.D. attendance has grown to include almost 80 participants, holding more than 300 meetings on Capitol Hill.

Almost 80 PPAI leaders and other industry professionals traveled to Washington, D.C., in May for PPAI’s Legislative Education and Action Day (L.E.A.D.), now in its 10th year.  During the annual event, which ran May 15-16, participants conducted more than 300 meetings with senators, representatives and their legislative staffs on Capitol Hill to discuss pending legislation and issues relevant to the promotional products industry, and presented Reps. During the event, PPAI leadership also presented Warren Davidson (R-OH) and Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) with the Association’s 2019 Legislator of the Year award.

The program began with lunch on Wednesday, May 15, followed by an informative presentation by Paula Calimafde, Esq., of the Small Business Legislative Council and a partner at the law firm of Paley Rothman. After a refresher on tips for talking with members of Congress and their staffs, Calimafde updated listeners on several key pieces of legislation, including state sales tax, health care, social security legislation, estate tax and retirement plans.

“As a first-time L.E.A.D.-er, I was impressed by the process of meeting and dialoging with the Michigan legislators,” says Sandra Kelley, chief operating officer of Prestige Promotions Powered by Proforma in Burton, Michigan, one of 10 first-time attendees. “Out of four appointments, we met with two U.S. Representatives and two staffers. All were receptive to our issues, understood and related to our industry and fully embraced our ask to support legislation that would allow the promotional products industry to continue to grow and thrive.”

    
Above photograph: At L.E.A.D. this year, PPAI leadership presented Warren Davidson (R-OH),
left photograph, and Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), right photograph, with the Association's 2019
Legislator of the Year award.

L.E.A.D. participants came to Washington, D.C., with many subjects to address with legislators and their staff, most importantly was the increase in tariffs—from 10 percent to 25 percent—on $250 billion of Chinese imports announced the week before, and the Trump administration’s announcement that it might be extending those tariffs to a further $300 billion in Chinese products, essentially everything imported from the country. Also top of mind in the conversations was elevating legislators’ understanding of global value chains and the industry’s involvement in them, preserving independent contractor designations and deductibility of advertising expenditures, Section 530 of the Revenue Act and other ways legislators can support the promotional products industry to ensure it remains vibrant and dynamic.

Carroll Hanley Goggin, MAS, owner of DBG Promotions in Winter Park, Florida, who has participated in L.E.A.D. for several years, says, “Engagement on the Hill was strong in regard to the value of the global supply chain. Rep. Stephanie Murphy’s legislative aid, Jeff Rapp, commented without hesitation that the representative was strongly opposed to the current tariffs because they were bad for business in Florida. We celebrated being on the same team with my representative and focused on the need to educate the White House on the struggles our industry and businesses in Florida are facing with the ongoing tariff battles with China.”

Longtime L.E.A.D. participant Nick D’Eramo, owner of Triple Stitch Sportswear in Prospect, Connecticut, says he feels the awareness of the industry’s issues was heard and understood overall. “We were meeting with a staffer at Sen. Blumenthal’s office and discussing the tariffs. I asked what the feeling was [on that issue] from his office and his response was ‘uncomfortable.’ The White House is in control and they’re not getting enough information."

Above photograph: A group comprised of members of the Upper Midwest Association of
Promotional Professionals m
et with Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), center.

Jeanne Walls, president of JWalls Ink! in Richmond, Virginia, sums up her experience. “Great day on the hill,” she says. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or Republican, where else in the world would you have the opportunity to walk the halls of justice, meet your legislators, be invited into their offices and actually voice your opinion, talk about your profession and ask your government officials to keep us in mind when they say ‘yea’ or ‘nay?’ Thank you to PPAI for this opportunity. I love my job.”

As part of L.E.A.D.’s goal of growing and protecting the promotional products industry, those who couldn’t be on Capitol Hill were encouraged to add their voice about concerns and legislation that affect their business and the industry through PPAI’s virtual fly-in program. Over four days during the week of L.E.A.D, industry advocates sent almost 7,700 messages to legislators on a range of subjects, from promotional products effectiveness and independent contractors, to the global value chain and advertising deductibility.

To find out more about L.E.A.D., contact lawmakers about the issues and learn how to be a part of next year’s trip, visit ppai.org/lead.

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James Khattak is news editor of PPB.

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