PACs, Socials, Honorariums and Tax Programs for Legislators

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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. …