And then there were 34
August 16, 2012With just a little effort, 8 percent of the U.S. House of Representatives – 34 members from districts across the country – have signed on as co-sponsors of Alliance-supported Congressional Resolution #116, the measure that reaffirms the value of the fraternal business model. That leads me to believe that with a little more elbow grease – including participation from Alliance member society CEOs, fraternal field managers and agents, local chapter leaders, and rank-and-file members – we can add many more members of the House of Representatives to the co-sponsor list. Imagine how well-positioned we might be heading into next year’s tax reform debate if 15 percent of House members signed onto the resolution. Increase that to 25 or 30 percent and you’re talking about playing a major role in the outcome of the tax reform discussion. Here’s a quick recap of why the Alliance is aggressively recruiting co-sponsors for the Resolution, a look at the results of our efforts to date and, more importantly, a peak at what’s ahead, and a variety of ways you can become part of this campaign. Why is this important? No matter who wins the Presidential election or which party controls the Congress in 2013, a major debate over reform of the U.S. Tax Code is going to top the political agenda next year. I may be naïve, but it seems to me that there are only two ways for lawmakers to tackle the exemption issue: 1) they can start by keeping all of them in the Tax Code and then review them one-by-one to determine which ones to eliminate; or 2) they can start by eliminating all the exemptions and making those individuals and organizations that benefited from them fight their way back in to the Tax Code. Either way, we’ve got to be prepared for the fraternal business model exemption to get placed under the Congressional microscope somewhere along the line. So far… The real heroes of the co-sponsor recruitment campaign so far have been the Alliance’s two largest members – Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and the Knights of Columbus – a handful of State Fraternal Alliances, and the members of the Alliance Board of Directors. Thrivent and the Knights have reached out to House members with whom they’ve built relationships over the years and secured the lion’s share of co-sponsors. Hats off to both of these organizations for their willingness to utilize these contacts for the good of the entire fraternal system. Representatives of State Fraternal Alliances in Michigan (Kevin Marti, Gleaner; Chris Martin, Woman’s Life), Ohio (Joe Hoffmann, United Commercial Travelers), and Pennsylvania (Joe Evanish, SNPJ) have written letters to their states’ Congressional delegations asking them to become co-sponsors. And the members of the Alliance’s Board have written letters to the House member that represents their societies’ home districts with a similar request. In addition, executives from a number of fraternals (Bill O’Toole and Joe Gadbois from Catholic Financial Life; Harald Borrmann from Catholic United Financial; Kristin McDaniel from Royal Neighbors; and Pam Hernandez from Woodmen of the World/Omaha) have traveled to Washington, D.C., this year to make personal requests of public policymakers and their staff to become co-sponsors of the measure. What’s next? There are dozens of Congressional caucuses that bring together lawmakers who share a common bond, be it political philosophy (“Blue Dog” Democrats, for instance), gender, or ethnicity. We’re working with the leaders of the Alliance’s Polish and Norwegian societies to tap into these caucuses and generate additional co-sponsors. We’re also putting together a new Web-based grassroots tool that will make it easy for you and your members to learn more about the Resolution, view a list of all current co-sponsors, obtain contact information for your Representative, and send letters or emails directly to these lawmakers asking them to become a co-sponsor or thanking them for signing on. We’ll have all this information on hand in the Alliance’s Membership Services booth at next month’s Annual Meeting in New Orleans. You can stop by and pick up sample letters to legislators and contact information for the lawmaker from your society’s home district, so you can lend your support to this cause. If members of Congress don’t hear the fraternal story from you, who will they hear it from? If they don’t understand who we are and what we do, it will be much easier for them to cast a vote eliminating the fraternal business model tax exemption that has contributed so much to the health and welfare of our nation for more than a century. Let’s turn those 34 co-sponsors into 340, and help ensure the fraternal business model’s place in the evolving financial services marketplace.