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PACs, socials, honorariums and tax programs for legislators.

PACs, Socials, Honorariums and Tax Programs for Legislators

All of the activities mentioned in the title to this "Washington Comment" have one thing in common: they are alternatives that complement each other as devices utilized by NSPA's affiliated state organizations to attract the attention of state legislators. Any device that creates presence, involvement and visibility enhances political effectiveness.

The political action committee is commonly known as the PAC. State PACs are simpler to fund and operate than federal PACs, which most voters believe exert an undue influence on the outcome of elections. All of the states have laws regulating the state PAC which are less complex than the laws governing federal PACs. Moreover, since the cost of running for the state legislature is considerably less than running for Congress, the contributions to state candidates are smaller, more deeply appreciated and generally more effective.

With simplicity of organization and operation, the state PAC is an effective weapon in the legislative action plan arsenal. Affiliated state organizations that do not currently have a state PAC should seriously consider organizing one.

Social events sponsored by an affiliated state organization may take one of several forms. A few ASOs go all out and sponsor a dinner with an invited guest list of legislators and their spouses. A cocktail party or similar reception with an invitation to all members of the legislature can also be effective. The cost of a social event may exceed the PAC expenditures to the number of legislative candidates, but the ASOs believe that it is cost-effective.

Sponsoring a social event for the legislators enhances visibility. You meet the legislators on a personal one-on-one basis in a relaxed social environment. It is an opportunity to see the legislators personally, to renew acquaintances and make new friendships. In a social environment, legislators will later recall what your ASO means to you, your clients and to the legislator's constituents.

Another alternative also used with success by affiliated state organizations is the honorarium. Key state legislators may be invited to speak at the ASO's meeting or annual convention and paid an honorarium for his/her personal appearance. When a legislator receives an honorarium for a speaking engagement (accompanied by publicity appropriate to the occasion), it is an experience that stands out in his/her mind.

Additionally, the honorarium creates a personal relationship. A legislator may be the recipient of a good number of PAC contributions which may eventually become very impersonal. In many respects, honorarium dollars tend to have a more powerful effect than PAC dollars.

The ASO has ample opportunities to invite a key member of the legislature to speak. An annual convention is an excellent occasion. A key legislator speaking on changes to the state's tax structure or changes to the state's occupational licensing laws will feel that he/she has earned the speaking fee. At the same time, the ASO will most likely make a good friend in the legislature.

The tax program has been used with success by several affiliated state organizations. The idea here is for the ASO to sponsor a short session or program on income taxes as they affect the state legislator. The Independent Accountants Society of Missouri initiated an annual tax program targeted for state legislators about six years ago. More recently, the Pennsylvania Society of Public Accountants sponsored a similar tax seminar for state legislators.

The Missouri affiliate's program involves three sessions scheduled at different times during the day to meet the convenience of the legislator. The topics were federal and state income taxes and changes in the tax laws. The Missouri sessions, held in the State Capitol, were co-sponsored by the speaker of the House and the president pro-tem of the Senate. A nicely prepared brochure is an attractive invitation to the legislators to attend a convenient session.

Specific tax topics discussed at the Missouri program included income tax subjects of importance to state legislators, such as living expenses away from home and travel and auto expenses. After each session, the affiliate's speakers (all of whom are volunteers for the program) were available to answer questions.

A tax program targeted for state legislators is an excellent way to enhance the affiliated state organization's name recognition. At the same time the ASO renders a useful service. Legislators are taxpayers also, and they are just as concerned about the proper reporting of income and deductions as any other taxpayers.

An advantage of the tax program for legislators is that it doesn't make great demands upon the ASO's resources. All that is needed are a few good speakers willing to give up several hours of their time during the busy tax filing season. Arrangements for a meeting room can be made through friendly legislators who co-sponsor the program. As mentioned previously, an attractively prepared brochure advising the legislators of the program's availability (prominently displaying the name of the ASO and the speakers) is a must. Refreshments such as cold drinks and coffee are an added plus.

Lobbying the legislature takes different forms and utilizes different devices. PACs, hosted social occasions, honorariums and tax programs for state legislators are four alternatives that also complement one another as lobbying devices. There is nothing inherently bad or evil about lobbying. In fact, informed citizens are expected to participate in the legislative process through lobbying in one form or another. By incorporating these activities into a lobbying program, the affiliated state organization will enhance its political effectiveness and show its friends in the state legislature that they are appreciated and remembered.

William H. Sager Legal Counsel
COPYRIGHT 1990 National Society of Public Accountants
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:political action committees
Author:Sager, William H.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Article Type:column
Date:Sep 1, 1990
Previous Article:The bottom line - is it enough.
Next Article:What are 'grassroots' anyway?

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