4 Tips for Government Relations Professionals

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Written by Nicholas Johns
Director of Strategy, CDS
Published by Unfold, Aug. 9th 2016 

These tips are meant to be some key rules of thumb for people aspiring to work in, or who are just starting out in, the exciting and rewarding field of government relations. Cheers to your career on K Street!

1. Know Your Goals
When you finally get that meeting with the Member of Congress or staffer who you’ve been trying to lock down for what seems like forever, your job isn’t done yet.  You need to prepare for the meeting, knowing in advance what your major ‘asks’ are, whether it is co-sponsoring legislation, supporting a bill, or joining a caucus. As a corollary to that, you must absolutely know your organization’s policy positions, inside and out, and expect questions. Practice before hand if you need to. Nothing turns off a busy MoC or staffer more than someone who wastes their time.

2. Stay On Message
During your meeting, something might go astray. Someone may ask you a question you don’t know the answer to, you may meet a rude member/staffer, or the constituent you brought to the meeting may go on a tangent. Regardless, it’s your job to be calm and redirect the conversation to your policy points.  If you don’t know the answer to the question, let the person know you’ll check with your organization and get them the details ASAP. Take it as the perfect chance to follow up and show your follow through. If it’s a constituent, look for a chance to bring the conversation back to earth (and your ask/policy points). Whatever you do, you want to maintain a cool head and a positive attitude.

3. Know The Setting
If you work for a lobbying organization, chances are you will have the opportunity to attend many different events, including Hill events, happy hours, client dinners and even the occasional gala. You should always be cognizant of what setting you’re in and behave accordingly. For instance, if you’re in a Hill meeting, you should probably stick directly to your policy points and stray very little into personal matters. Conversely, if you’re attending an informal happy hour/reception, the ratio should be tilted the other way. Social events are a great way to meet new friends and contacts, and business generally should be secondary at that stage. The same goes for your attire. You don’t want your outfit to be a distraction to either yourself or with whomever you are networking. When in doubt, business/office attire is a safe bet, while more casual options may be appropriate when Congress is out of session.

4. Put Numbers On The Board
Your organization is in a panic. It looks like the legislative masterpiece your team has been working on for months is going to get shot down. What do you do in this situation? Is it time to fold up shop and move to Estonia? Probably not. This is why it’s important to keep running tabs on legislation or other options that still affect your stakeholders/clients/members. If you can substantively demonstrate you’ve been working hard on your main priorities then one setback will likely not sink your relationship with stakeholders. For instance, if your big tax cut bill goes belly-up, then maybe your work on repealing a smaller provision of the tax code through other means can get the spotlight. Small wins are always better than nothing.

 

The Center for Development and Strategy is an official partner of Unfold Inc.
http://www.thinkcds.org/
@ThinkCDS

Signed into law on July 29th

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The following bills were enacted and signed into law by President Obama one week ago on July 29th.

H.R. 2607: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 7802 37th Avenue in Jackson Heights, New York, as the “Jeanne and Jules Manford Post Office
Introduced: June 2, 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Joseph “Joe” Crowley [D-NY]

H.R. 3700: Housing Opportunity Through Modernization Act of 2016
Introduced: October 7, 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer [R-MO]

H.R. 3931: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 620 Central Avenue Suite 1A in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas, as the “Chief Petty Officer Adam Brown United States Post Office”.
Introduced: November 4, 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Bruce Westerman [R-AR]

H.R. 3953: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4122 Madison Street, Elfers, Florida, as the “Private First Class Felton Roger Fussell Memorial Post Office”.
Introduced: November 5, 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Gus Bilirakis [R-FL]

H.R. 4010: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 522 North Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona, as the “Ed Pastor Post Office”.
Introduced: November 16, 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Ruben Gallego [D-AZ]

H.R. 4747: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 6691 Church Street in Riverdale, Georgia, as the “Major Gregory E. Barney Post Office Building”.
Introduced: March 15, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. David Scott [D-GA]

H.R. 4761: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 61 South Baldwin Avenue in Sierra Madre, California, as the “Louis Van Iersel Post Office”.
Introduced: March 16, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Judy Chu [D-CA]

H.R. 4777: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1301 Alabama Avenue in Selma, Alabama as the “Amelia Boynton Robinson Post Office Building”.
Introduced: March 17, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Terri Sewell [D-AL]

H.R. 4877: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3130 Grants Lake Boulevard in Sugar Land, Texas, as the “LCpl Garrett W. Gamble, USMC Post Office Building”.
Introduced: March 23, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Pete Olson [R-TX]

H.R. 4904: MEGABYTE Act of 2016
Introduced: April 12, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Matthew Cartwright [D-PA]

H.R. 4925: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 229 West Main Cross Street, in Findlay, Ohio, as the “Michael Garver Oxley Memorial Post Office Building”.
Introduced: April 13, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Robert Latta [R-OH]

H.R. 4975: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 5720 South 142nd Street in Omaha, Nebraska, as the “Petty Officer 1st Class Caleb A. Nelson Post Office Building”.
Introduced: April 18, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Brad Ashford [D-NE]

H.R. 4987: To designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 3957 2nd Avenue in Laurel Hill, Florida, as the “Sergeant First Class William ‘Kelly’ Lacey Post Office”.
Introduced: April 18, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Miller [R-FL]

H.R. 5722: John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission Act
Introduced: July 11, 2016
Sponsor: Rep. Joseph Kennedy [D-MA]

S. 764: A bill to reauthorize and amend the National Sea Grant College Program Act, and for other purposes.
Introduced: March 17, 2015
Sponsor: Sen. Roger Wicker [R-MS]

S. 2893: Library of Congress Sound Recording and Film Preservation Programs Reauthorization Act of 2016
Introduced: April 28, 2016
Sponsor: Sen. Charles “Chuck” Grassley [R-IA]

S. 3055: Department of Veterans Affairs Dental Insurance Reauthorization Act of 2016
Introduced: June 14, 2016
Sponsor: Sen. Richard Burr [R-NC]

Six bills signed into law yesterday, June 22, 2016

President Obama signed the following six bills into law yesterday:

H.R. 2576: Frank R. Lautenberg Chemical Safety for the 21st Century Act
Sponsor: Rep. John Shimkus; R-IL
Introduced: May 26, 2015

2276: SAFE PIPES Act
Sponsor: Sen. Deb Fischer; R-NE
Introduced: November 10, 2015

H.R. 2212: To take certain Federal lands located in Lassen County, California, into trust for the benefit of the Susanville Indian Rancheria, and for other purposes.
Sponsor: Rep. Doug LaMalfa; R-CA
Introduced: May 1, 2015

H.R. 812: Indian Trust Asset Reform Act
Sponsor: Rep. Mike Simpson; R-ID
Introduced: February 9, 2015

H.R. 2137: Federal Law Enforcement Self-Defense and Protection Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Doug Collins; R-GA
Introduced: April 30, 2015

H.R. 1762: To name the Department of Veterans Affairs community-based outpatient clinic in The Dalles, Oregon, as the “Loren R. Kaufman VA Clinic”.
Sponsor: Rep. Greg Walden; R-OR
Introduced: April 13, 2015

 

Presidential Primary Day for California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, & South Dakota

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Polls will soon be closing in the six states holding presidential primaries today: California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota (caucus), and South Dakota. Let’s take a look at their voting rules, past turnout rates, and voter preference statistics of past election cycles.

California:

California’s 2012 primary election saw 22.9% of their 23,265,447 eligible voters cast a ballot. Roughly 55.7% of eligible voters participated in the general election.

Rules:
Online Voter Registration: YES
No-Excuse Absentee Voting: YES
Early Voting: YES
ID Requirement: NO

California voter presidential preferences of the last four cycles:
2012: 60.2% Democratic / 37.1% Republican
2008: 61.0% Democratic / 37.0% Republican
2004: 54.3% Democratic / 44.4% Republican
2000: 53.4% Democratic / 41.7% Republican

Montana:

Montana’s 2012 primary election saw 31.1% of their 767,519 eligible voters cast a ballot. Roughly 63.5% of eligible voters participated in the general election.

Rules:
Online Voter Registration: NO
No-Excuse Absentee Voting: YES
Early Voting: YES
ID Requirement: YES

Montana voter presidential preferences of the last four cycles:
2012: 41.7% Democratic / 55.4% Republican
2008: 47.3% Democratic / 49.5% Republican
2004: 38.6% Democratic / 59.1% Republican
2000: 33.4% Democratic / 58.4% Republican

New Jersey:

New Jersey’s 2012 primary election saw 8.8% of their 5,885,472 eligible voters cast a ballot. Roughly 62.2% of eligible voters participated in the general election.

Rules:
Online Voter Registration: NO
No-Excuse Absentee Voting: YES
Early Voting: YES
ID Requirement: YES – but only if identification was not presented at the time of registration.

New Jersey voter presidential preferences of the last four cycles:
2012: 58.3% Democratic / 40.6% Republican
2008: 57.3% Democratic / 41.7% Republican
2004: 52.9% Democratic / 46.2% Republican
2000: 56.1% Democratic / 40.3% Republican

New Mexico:

New Mexico’s 2012 primary election saw 16.6% of their 1,443,135 eligible voters cast a ballot. Roughly 54.8% of eligible voters participated in the general election.

Rules:
Online Voter Registration: YES
No-Excuse Absentee Voting: YES
Early Voting: YES
ID Requirement: YES – but only if identification was not presented at the time of registration.

New Mexico voter presidential preferences of the last four cycles:
2012: 53.0% Democratic / 42.8% Republican
2008: 56.9% Democratic / 41.8% Republican
2004: 49.0% Democratic / 49.8% Republican
2000: 47.9% Democratic / 47.8% Republican

North Dakota:

North Dakota’s 2012 caucuses saw 30.6% of their 525,824 eligible voters participate. Roughly 60.4% of eligible voters participated in the general election.

Rules:
Online Voter Registration: NO
No-Excuse Absentee Voting: YES
Early Voting: YES
ID Requirement: YES

North Dakota voter presidential preferences of the last four cycles:
2012: 38.7% Democratic / 58.3% Republican
2008: 44.6% Democratic / 53.3% Republican
2004: 35.5% Democratic / 62.9% Republican
2000: 33.1% Democratic / 60.7% Republican

FUN FACT: North Dakota is the only state with no formal voting registration system. Voters provide identification at the polls and are then given a ballot.

South Dakota:

South Dakota’s 2012 primary election saw 15.0% of their 611,746 eligible voters cast a ballot. Roughly 60.1% of eligible voters participated in the general election.

Rules:
Online Voter Registration: NO
No-Excuse Absentee Voting: YES
Early Voting: YES
ID Requirement: YES

South Dakota voter presidential preferences of the last four cycles:
2012: 39.9% Democratic / 57.9% Republican
2008: 44.7% Democratic / 53.2% Republican
2004: 38.4% Democratic / 59.9% Republican
2000: 37.6% Democratic / 60.3% Republican

 

 

Wishy Washy Washington

Presidential primaries are by nature confusing and seemingly nonsensical at times; then enter the state of Washington, which compounds this confusion tenfold. Today is the Washington State Republican Primary and even many professional D.C. political consultants are thinking: “wait—didn’t the Washington GOP already have a caucus?” In fact, they did have a caucus on February 20th.

Politically speaking, Washington is very unique. For starters, it is one of only three states to conduct all elections through a vote-by-mail system (Oregon and Colorado are the other two), and does not establish traditional polling locations. For each election, ballots are mailed to registered voters ahead of time and citizens are given a deadline by which to mail them back. Washington does allow online voter registration, which must be completed 29 days in advance if done online or by mail; in-person registration must be completed only eight days in advance. Because all elections are conducted on the vote-by-mail system, absentee and early voting are not allowed.

Very few states hold both a primary and a caucus and even fewer hold both for the same party. In Washington’s case, the Republican GOP holds both a caucus and a primary—but not for the same purpose. Precinct caucuses are held in February to pick who the convention delegates will be. The primary that occurs later in May determines which candidate those delegates will support at the convention. It is here at the primary that public opinion is taken into account.

On the other side, Washington State Democrats award their delegates based on the results of their caucus held in March. Democrats are allowed to vote in the May primary but although both Clinton and Sanders will appear on the primary ballot, Democratic Party delegates are not allocated based on these primary results. The May primary is considered a “beauty contest” by Washington Democrats because it does not determine delegate allocation, but is just a measure of public opinion on the candidates themselves.

So how did Washington’s system become structured this way? The short answer is Pat Robertson. In 1988, Pat Robertson, a staunch conservative televangelist, was running for the Presidential nomination and centered his campaign on restoring the moral integrity of the country by opposing issues like abortion. The Republican convention was held in New Orleans that year—a big party town where many Republicans found themselves having a good time on Bourbon Street (where else would one be in New Orleans?). Pat Robertson and his supporters; however, were holding prayer circles and early morning breakfasts and turning off many other Republican attendees. When it was all over, Pat Robertson did not get the nomination but inspired many Washington Republicans to later propose a new means of electing convention delegates, something that was quickly passed by the Washington legislature.

Since then, the Washington GOP has had the option for both a caucus and a primary.  To make things more confusing; however, sometimes they choose not to utilize the primary and stick with the results of the February caucus. Their system is subject to internal state party politics and doesn’t necessarily have to follow predetermined rules. This especially occurs when the state government is controlled by the Democratic Party or when state Republicans don’t feel they have a competitive nominee to put forward. Yet even when they don’t skip the primary, the state party might vote to allocate their convention delegates differently—sometimes half, sometimes a third, etc. It’s no wonder that candidates in both parties are currently complaining about Washington’s ever-changing system.

Washington State is unusual and a bit confusing but that’s the glory of American politics. We’ve got 50 states and each one can and does operate however it sees fit. God Bless America.

Primary Day in Indiana

Let’s take a look at Indiana’s voting rules, past turnout rates, and voter preference statistics of past election cycles.

Indiana’s 2012 primary election saw 20.2% of their 4,748,647 eligible voters cast a ballot. Roughly 55.2% of their eligible voters participated in the general election.

Rules:
Online Voter Registration: YES
No-Excuse Absentee Voting: NO
Early Voting: YES
ID Requirement: YES

Indiana voter preferences of the last four cycles:

  • 2012: 43.9% Democratic / 54.1% Republican
  • 2008: 49.9% Democratic / 48.9% Republican
  • 2004: 39.3% Democratic / 59.9% Republican
  • 2000: 41.0% Democratic / 56.6% Republican

FUN FACT: Indiana is one of only three states whose polls close at 6pm, along with Hawaii and Kentucky.