FEI's approach to developing public policy priorities.

Author:Kramer, Robert
Position:WASHINGTON BEAT - Financial Executives International

Financial Executives International's (FEI) Government Affairs department in Washington, D.C., receives many suggestions from members about which policy positions it should adopt. So, you may be wondering: How does a professional association with thousands of members agree on a set of policy positions that it supports on behalf of its members?

The model prevalent among most Washington-based trade associations is designed around one or more policy committees, which meet periodically to discuss and adopt positions, organize legislative campaigns and sometimes coordinate campaign tactics. The committees are comprised of the association's most politically active companies, and the positions adopted are proposed by association staff or interested company representatives, who are usually professional lobbyists.

FEI's advocacy model differs in a several respects. First, our advocacy and technical committees focus on members' common interests and expertise. For example, the Committee on Government Business (CGB) is comprised of financial executives in charge of a company's government contracting divisions and/or compliance efforts; the Committee on Taxation (COT) brings together the heads of corporate tax departments, and so on.

Second, these committee members--with extensive business and technical experience--join together to discuss the impact of a variety of government legislative and regulatory issues on the companies, industries and professions.

They set the agenda, discuss and subsequently develop policy positions and decide what actions, if any, FEI's Government Affairs and Accounting Policy staff should take to implement those positions. These can range from writing comment letters, to direct lobbying, as well as to organizing grass roots fly-ins and issue-based coalitions.

FEI advocacy committees are comprised of 25 to 50 members each (plus alternates), so how can those not serving on a committee become engaged, particularly as issues in Washington become increasingly important to members across the nation? To that end, the Private Company Roundtable (PCR) was launched to provide opportunities for private company members to get involved in the policymaking process.

With more than 400 members, PCR meets by conference call and webinar three times a year, to discuss key issues and joins in one D.C. fly-in. Recently FEI has also established a Financial Accounting and Reporting Roundtable (FARR), and the formation of other such roundtables is...

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