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The breakfast club.

The Breakfast Club

I recently attended a fundraising breakfast for a member of Congress who is up for re-election this month. (By the time you read this, the individual in question probably will have won another term.) Because NSPA's Political Action Committee is small, we don't get to attend many of these functions. (We've recently developed a strategy of timing our contributions to coincide with receptions, but our exposure is still somewhat limited.) The consequences of this were driven home to me in a most profound way over the breakfast table.

Many of the "regulars" -- people who go to these functions for a living -- we commenting on the number of receptions they had to attend that day. (One individual at our table would attend two more breakfasts and five cocktail receptions before the day was through.) As they variously excused themselves to attend the next fundraiser, I was struck by the fact that each of these individuals would have the ear of legislators who could make a difference to the members of their respective organizations and the issues of primary concern to them. NSPA, because of its limited resources, would not be represented at any of these receptions.

If this seems to be a most opprobrious way of carrying on business, it is. Nevertheless, it's the way it's done, and NSPA only hurts itself if it chooses not to get involved in the process.

It would, in my opinion, be reason enough to support NSPA-PAC if my story ended there -- but it doesn't. I had a particular agenda at this function. The member of Congress was not one with whom we interact on any regular basis; this individual serves on no committee that is of ongoing interest to the members of the National Society. However, this member has introduced legislation which, in seeking to regulate another profession, may have a profound impact on the way accountants do business. I needed to speak to this member and to the member's staff in order to make sure that the National Society's interests were protected.

In the process of identifying myself and NSPA's interests, I was told of all the "players" who were at the breakfast from other groups, including several whose interests are diametrically opposed to ours. I engaged in the usual pleasantries, outlined my concerns and made an appointment to see one of the staffers "at a quieter time, where we could talk."

I left the breakfast feeling optimistic that we will ultimately be able to protect the National Society's interests, but not without a lot of hard work between now and next Spring when the legislation involved will likely move through Congress.

Then, as I was getting in my car, reality set in: what about all those other folks who were going on to another reception, and another, and another? What would happen when NSPA wasn't there? What would have happened this morning if we weren't represented?

The volunteer leadership of the NSPA-PAC -- your peers -- does yeoman's work with the limited resources available. Moreover, to the credit of all independent practitioners, the growth in the PAC over the past several years has been exponential. However, fewer than 5% of NSPA's members support the political action committee, and this leaves us out-gunned on too many important issues.

Certainly, individual resources are limited and can only be stretched so far. Additionally, many of you face life-and-death battles in state legislatures that require considerable financial resources. Independent accountants cannot afford to divert even one nickel from these critical efforts. However, at the same time, no individual can afford to ignore what goes on here in Washington (as much as most of us would like to !!). Anyone who views support of national and state PACs as an either/or proposition does so at his or her own peril. There are two separate levels of government, and they're both very interested in the things accountants do. You need to be heard in your state's capitol and your nation's.

Ultimately, I'm not here to rail against the system; we all know it is contemptible. My purpose is to convince you that the only thing worse than being involved in this process is ignoring it.

I take my obligation to "zealously represent the interests of my client" -- the National Society and its 24,000 independent accountant members -- very seriously. Because your membership in NSPA demonstrates a similar dedication to your profession, it is important to understand how very serious this business is and how very high the stakes are. Please let NSPA-PAC hear from you so Congress can hear from us. I assure you, they're hearing from the other guys.

Peter M. Berkery, Jr. Director of Congressional Relations /Tax Counsel
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Title Annotation:fundraising breakfast
Author:Berkery, Peter M., Jr.
Publication:The National Public Accountant
Date:Nov 1, 1990
Words:783
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