NECA TransmissionsNotes from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry
  • More Inside Baseball

    Posted on May 19, 2008 by John M Grau

    Both the baseball and political seasons are in full swing. From time to time, I have reported on insights I’ve gathered from meetings with some of the political movers and shakers in Washington, D.C. It’s time for an update.

    I recently joined seven other association CEOs for a breakfast meeting with the Director and Asst. Director of the White House Office of Public Liaison. These are the people who promote the President’s position on legislative matters before Congress. 

    They told us that the White House is primarily focused on two legislative issues: trade and the economy. The trade issue is the Colombia Free Trade Agreement being held up by the House leadership. The economy issue revolves around various stimulus measures being debated by Congress. 

    Apparently the White House is still promoting a broad range of issues, but quite frankly, it was evident to me that there’s not much going on there. With a lame-duck President who’s lost almost all political leverage, I believe the White House staff are simply biding their time until they’re out of office. Not that it’s an unusual situation – just the reality of politics and government.

    More interesting was a closed door session with Senator John Ensign of Nevada. Sen. Ensign also heads up the National Republican Senatorial Committee, the group that raises money and promotes Republican candidates for U.S. Senate races. Both parties have such committees on both the House and Senate side. NECA contributes to all these committees for both parties including the overall national committees, and that gives us entrée to sessions like this.

    Ensign was very frank about the Republican Senate prospects for this fall’s election. He admitted that he expects to lose seats. His goal is to hold on to 45 seats, and in his wildest dreams, he can paint a scenario for 47 Republican seats. He gave a candid race-by-race analysis. He noted that fundraising has been a problem for the Republican Party. He said that last year he spent most of his time apologizing for the performance of his party. This year the prospects have improved.

    Ensign did offer a glimpse of the issue Republicans will use to motivate donors – union card check legislation. It was defeated last year, but with increased Democratic strength in both the House and Senate next year, along with the prospects of a Democratic President, he expects card check legislation to be front and center on the legislative agenda. His argument is that Republicans need to maintain enough seats in the Senate to be able to filibuster the bill if necessary.

    So that’s the Republican Senate battle plan for this fall’s election. My inside baseball group is extending an invitation to the Obama campaign staff to provide someone to meet with us. More insights to come.

     

  • Hold Up a Mirror to See the Special Interests

    Posted on Apr 30, 2008 by John M Grau

    Right now I’m attending the NECA Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. This is a busy week for me, with meetings of the Government Affairs Committee, the Workforce Development Committee and the National Joint Apprenticeship and Training Committee. Just to round things out, the Marketing Committee gathered last week.

    In my opening remarks at the conference this morning, I warned the NECA members and staff present to be on the look out for special interest groups. All the presidential candidates and many legislators say that special interests are taking over our government and unduly influencing our elected officials. These special interests are like a 17-year-old boy with only one thing on his mind – in this case, it’s to convince legislators to support their issue or cause.

    Then I asked the conference participants to look around at the other people in the room. They now had come face-to-face with the dreaded special interests. We are one of those special interest groups.

    Anyone who gets together with a group to petition their government leaders is a special interest. But it seems that depending on your political bias, groups like the trial lawyers, unions, and the Sierra Club are not special interest groups. Apparently. it’s okay for them to invite legislators to their meetings and help finance political campaigns. If you listen to the mainstream media, the real special interests are business groups. They have unflattering labels like “Big Oil” or “Big Pharma.” 

    In truth, it’s a patriotic act for a special interest of any kind to legitimately try to convince their legislators of the merit of their point of view. Like voting, it’s our duty.

    Our political leaders should not work in isolation. They need to be confronted with issues and understand the problems facing their constituents. But it is difficult for any one voice to be heard. For one thing, it’s not feasible for every citizen of this country to have a personal meeting with every legislator voting on a matter of interest to that citizen. It’s also not very efficient.

    That’s where trade associations, professional societies and other groups come into play. It makes perfect sense for people or companies with common interests to band together to jointly present their point of view to our political leaders. And the bigger, the more organized and well-financed the group, the better. Such things clearly demonstrate the importance that the group places on their issues.

    So we shouldn’t be knocking special interest groups. We should be lauding them. Totalitarian governments control their populations by suppressing organized groups. In contrast, democracies promote a free society by guaranteeing the right of people to organize into groups and to openly petition their government.

    So this week, the patriots of our industry are in Washington, D.C., working to influence the federal government. Watch out Congress – Big Electrical is in town. We are a special interest group, and we’re proud to be here!

About NECA Transmissions

NECA Transmissions is a collaborative effort from CEO John Grau and NECA staff to provide insight and feedback on key issues from the front lines of the electrical contracting industry.

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