Dunn to Lay Out Keys to Becoming Politically Effective
July 18, 2011
July 19, 2011
It is not about soft money making its way into a candidate’s campaign coffers; it is not about executives taking their congressman to lunch—if you want lawmakers to support credit unions, your members are the key.
“Real members are the strongest asset politically that the credit union industry has,” said Michael Dunn, a consultant who helps trade associations win in Congress and state legislatures.
Dunn acknowledges that lobbyists are essential, but believes they cannot be effective without constituents who are willing to be grassroots and financial supporters.
“If it was easy to engage grassroots participation, everyone would be doing it and doing it well” he said.
Baby Sitting Senators
Dunn, a native of Magnolia, Ark., has navigated the political scene for 40 years. He began as an aide to then-Congressman David Pryor. Pryor later became a Senator, and his son Mark now represents Arkansas in that capacity.
“I babysat that boy,” Dunn jokes about the time he spent with the Pryor family. He acknowledges that lifetime relationships transcend many other forms of contact, and believes he can help credit unions leverage grassroots support to win in Congress.
He later served as the first director of government relations services with the Public Affairs Council, a professional organization for business public affairs executives. He is scheduled to address the Association’s Convention and Annual Business Meeting in September.
One of the most striking changes to the political landscape is rooted in the growth of the Tea Party, which Dunn says has “created a situation where Congress seems to be incapable of governing … It’s becoming more and more difficult to get anything done in Congress; it’s that splintered.”
As a result, Dunn cautions, “you can no longer take a party approach to influence Congress. You can’t even take a leadership approach. Every member of Congress has suddenly become very important. Personal involvement is suddenly the key to legislative effectiveness.”
There are a number of important strategies that can help generate grassroots support and supplement its power under such conditions, said Dunn.
For example, encourage a real voter or constituent who has a relationship with a lawmaker to introduce your lobbyist with an effective message: “This is someone I trust, this person speaks for me.” This would get an elected official’s attention and strengthen the position of your lobbyist.
Dunn also points out that despite strict regulations, it is still important to demonstrate strong support and promote PACs.