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Think advocacy is overrated? Read this…

October 4, 2017
It’s a quandary faced by almost every trade association.  Members – either corporations or individuals – come together under a common banner to do collectively what they could not do (or could not do as well) individually.  Most often, the collective effort focuses on political advocacy and comprises efforts to ensure that the group’s voice is heard by state and/or federal policymakers. But how do you quantify the value of political advocacy?  Unless a specific measure that the group supports or opposes is either enacted or defeated, it’s very difficult to place a value on just how much “having your voice heard” is worth. I’m often asked by members why the Alliance devotes so much time, energy, and effort to federal tax advocacy efforts when they perceive that there is very little threat to the fraternal tax exemption. Such questions have become even more frequent since the Alliance has announced its intention to overhaul its organizational structure so that it can devote even more of its limited resources to state and federal advocacy. The answer is this: the lack of an overt threat to the fraternal tax exemption didn’t just happen. It is a result of almost a decade of legwork by lobbyists, staff, and member society executives who have made the effort to communicate the value and viability of the fraternal exemption to members of Congress. And more importantly, the perception that we may be “safe” from being drawn into the debate over tax reform now going on in Congress is an illusion. As this article in the October 1, 2017, New York Times reports, there is a provision in the GOP tax rewrite that refers vaguely to plans to repeal or roll back numerous exclusions and deductions and to modernize tax rules affecting specific industries “to ensure that the tax code better reflects economic reality and that such rules provide little opportunity for tax avoidance.” So, who’s going to make sure that the lawmakers who will be looking at these “exclusions and deductions” are aware of the irreplaceable contributions of fraternals? That’s right, the Alliance. And while much of this work will be done by lobbyists and staff (I’ll be in Washington today and tomorrow meeting with legislators and their tax counsel), we’ll likely need your help later this year or early next year to make sure legislators fully understand the impact fraternals in their districts and states have on securing middle-class families’ financial futures and enhancing the quality of life in communities across the country. This is where your membership pays off and is precisely why the Alliance is modernizing its organizational structure so that we can focus our resources where they provide the greatest benefit to members. And don’t forget that our advocacy efforts are not limited to federal tax issues. The Alliance is also heavily engaged – and has won some hard-fought victories – at the state and NAIC levels, too. Those state advocacy capabilities will only be enhanced under the new operating model. Finally, in case you missed it, here is a link to last Thursday’s “Weekly Headlines,” which contains a plethora of news stories and editorials on the tax reform proposal. If you don’t subscribe to “Weekly Headlines” you really should. (Just send an email to info@fraternalalliance.org.) It’s the easiest way to review all the top news stories affecting your industry each week – and another benefit you’ll only get from your Alliance membership.