Mariada | A PAC Can Make a Difference
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A PAC Can Make a Difference

MidAtlantic IADA Lobbyist

Bob Keaton has more than 20 years of experience working in Harrisburg. Prior to Keaton Associates LLC he worked with Bigley and Blikle, LLC. Before that Bob worked for AIA Pennsylvania as a Government Affairs before moving on to National Federation of independent Business where he served as the Legislative Director in this role he worked on a variety of business issues and worked closely with leadership of the House and Senate as well as, the Governor Office.

Prior to these positions, as the Director of State Government Affairs for Sunoco, Inc. in Philadelphia. In this capacity, Bob served as the primary contact for Sunoco in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Texas. Responsibilities included representing Sunoco on boards, hiring lobbyists, and working with the Departments of Environmental Protection and Transportation.

He worked on a variety of issues for Sunoco including creating a grassroots web site for employees; developing the corporate PAC; hiring of lobbyists in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Texas; coordinating local and state regulations for the company’s convenience stores; monitoring and advocating policy positions regarding octane testing, ethanol mandates, climate change, permitting, and underground storage tanks.

From 2000 to 2005, Bob was a Senior Associate at Triad Strategies, LLC, one of the capital’s most prominent contract lobbying firms. While there, Bob secured more than $300,000 worth of funding annually for the Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs; amended the Tobacco Fund legislation for both the American Heart and Lung Associations; successfully lobbied for a cigarette excise tax to be included in the Commonwealth’s budget; and secured annual funding of more than $5 million for the Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Technology (CAMtech). In addition to these noteworthy accomplishments, Bob managed the accounts of the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children, Long Term Care Pharmacy Alliance, Pennsylvania Health Care Association, Pennsylvania Orthopedic Society, and the March of Dimes.

In 1995, Bob was appointed by Governor Tom Ridge to serve as Executive Policy         Specialist for Banking, Insurance and Securities. In this capacity, Bob served as a liaison for the Governor to the respective agencies.

While working as a policy specialist for the governor, Bob worked on a variety of projects that included: Workers’ Compensation Reform, Managed Care, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medical Malpractice CAT fund, Small Business and Entrepreneurial Advisory Committee, ATM Surcharges, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), Guidelines for Mandates, State Health Improvement Plan and the Pennsylvania Tobacco Settlement Proposal.

 

Legislative Focus

A PAC Can Make a Difference

By Bob Keaton, Principal, Keaton Associates LLC

The last several months we have seen a State budget taking almost a year to approve and a lot of the discussion was on raising taxes and developing more regulations on business.

Given this environment, now is a good time to assess what government is doing for you – or to you – as the case may be. This is probably even a better opportunity to ask how many regulations are impacting your business. In fact, regulations is one of the top issues as polled by the National Federation of Independent Business (impacting small business on a state and federal level.)

What the government does can make a difference in your bottom line and how you operate on a

day-to-day basis. This is a good time to think about increasing your presence and start to engage a political action committee (PAC).

If you are like a lot of people, the first thing you say to yourself is:  “Why help them when they never help me?”

The primary reason for forming a PAC is to help support and elect those candidates who are like-minded with your business in their views on government policy and those who believe in your issues – those who have actively championed your view in the past, as well as those who are new to the process and understand your goals.  Political Action Committees were created as a reaction to Watergate in the 1970s. As a result, federal and state laws and regulations were enacted to curb campaign fraud and misappropriation of funds.

I am sure you have asked yourself many times: How did this regulation become policy? Or how did this law get passed? During the process of reviewing legislation or a regulation it is important to have legislators engaged who have your back or you might find a law or regulation passed that you did not see coming. Why? If a lawmaker is not aware there is a problem or if they do not have the ear of a friend, then they will not know this is an issue.

Bad laws and policy happen when people and organizations are not engaged in the process.  

Business depends on electing candidates of either party who understand the importance of supporting business in Pennsylvania, and that depends on political action. The political and legal challenges PIADA faces in Harrisburg have a far greater impact on the future of your business than any single issue.

A primary reason for contributing to a PAC is something they say often in Washington, DC:  “You are either sitting at the table or on the menu.”

You cannot effectuate policy if you are not at the table making policy. The only way you can sit at the table is to make a connection with the policymakers who can help you get to the table. This is why being engaged and involved with a political action committee is so very important to organizations like PIADA that are so dependent on knowledgeable and informed lawmakers.

“Why do we need a lobbyist?”

 By Bob Keaton, Principal, Keaton Associates LLC

A familiar question by most companies and or associations is, “Why do we need a lobbyist? “

Given the negative media in Washington, D.C., many people continue to ask this question.  Lobbyists have been around since the days of Washington and Jefferson, but it was President U.S. Grant who gave lobbyists their name. One day while sitting in the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., Grant commented on all of the people in the lobby asking him questions. He later commented that “these lobbyists” are everywhere.

Since that time until today, we hear the term “lobbyist” practically every day in the newspapers or on the television news.  So again we ask the question. “Why do we need a lobbyist?” Before we answer, perhaps we should ask, “What does a lobbyist do?”

There are association lobbyists, corporate and contract lobbyists who all work to help educate policy makers on issues so that they can make informed decisions on the legislation and regulations they’re presented. With more than 6,000 bills introduced every legislative session, staying on top of every issue is very challenging – almost impossible.

Legislation and regulation that is proposed can help you or hurt you, but you cannot have a say unless you are involved in the process.

Nearly every business in America is based on one concept – networking. Networking is the ability to increase your size through relationship building and is a trademark of sales at all levels.  Developing strong networks takes time, money and effort.  A good lobbyist can maximize your time, money and effort so that you can get to the answer quickly, and thus, safe both time and money.

During all the years that I have worked in this business, I have observed that no one wants a lobbyist or needs one until it is too late. Calling the fire company when there is a fire is helpful, but prevention is more important. Building relationships before there are problems only strengthens your position.

For instance, in the early 1990’s a prominent business wanted help in Harrisburg or it was going to have to shut down its operations. The business called for help, but it was at a time when changing the tide was next to impossible. Building strong relations over a period of time might have helped save the company – waiting until a problem presented itself made it impossible to change the course. Ultimately, all efforts failed.

Developing contacts, networking among friends, getting people to pass your name to a friend and belonging to organizations of like-minded people are all fundamentals to marketing a business which, I am sure all of you understand intimately but the same is true for efficiently lobbying legislators.  That foundation is built on trust and is as fragile as any piece of crystal. All of these points are like tools in a shed – each one does something different and collectively they help you complete a particular job.

Another building block of lobbying is having a strong Political Action Committee. PACs were created in the 1970’s as a reaction to Watergate and their primary purpose is to allow for full disclosure and accountability of the campaign fund raising system. This accountability and disclosure protects both those that give and receive funding.  A well-managed PAC allows for companies and or individuals within an association to pool their resources and maximize their giving potential.

PACs, like anything else, can be mismanaged and used inappropriately; however, they can be a useful tool. The main value of a PAC is that it allows an organization to establish relationships with elected officials that ultimately decide the policy that will directly impact the bottom line.

Often times, people in organizations will say we don’t have enough money to be successful or that is too political. Both can be true but if a PAC is built around helping to get people elected that PIADA trusts and supports then it is, as mentioned previously tool to help the organization education lawmakers on what matters most to PIADA.

When looking for the answer to, “Why do we need a lobbyist?” it is critical to remember that a lobbyist can help a business become stronger by building quality relationship with lawmakers that set the policy that impacts you on a day to day basis.

Keaton Associates LLC, a public affairs firm, is focused on providing a high quality of service for each client by offering services that fits its specific needs.

Bob brings a unique perspective on how government works and how you can build a successful government affairs program.

He is experienced working on many different levels of public affairs and taps this in-depth knowledge in the Capitol to provide keen insight on critical issues and political developments.

Bob started his venture in government as the Executive Director of the Senate Veterans and Emergency Preparedness Committee for former Senator Terry Punt (R-Franklin).

From the state Senate, Bob served as a policy specialist for Banking, Insurance and Securities in the administration of then-Governor Tom Ridge. While here, Bob developed Governor Ridge’s policy for these three agencies and provided key input into a variety of policy initiatives.

In the private sector, Bob served as the Director of State Government Affairs for Sunoco Inc., serving as the primary contact for Sunoco in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma and Texas. He also has lobbied for small business, professional associations and nonprofit organizations.

Bob is a member of the National Speakers Association and authors guest columns for the Mid-Atlantic Independent Dealers Association Magazine and PAMIC 360 Magazine (Pennsylvania Association of Mutual Insurance Companies).

 

He resides in York County, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jennifer.

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