January 15, 2005


 Pushing politics

Projects boost Governmental Relations Division

Posted Jan. 1, 2005

As the new Congress shifts into gear and starts moving forward, the AVMA's Governmental Relations Division is ready to ride alongside, attempting to influence legislation that will benefit veterinarians, improve the lives of animals, and impact public health. The approval of five items at the recent Executive Board meeting will help; the items should increase AVMA's visibility, influence, and effectiveness in Washington, D.C.

The board authorized an additional $600,000 to remodel and refurbish the AVMA's new Washington, D.C., office building. The additional money, which comes from reserves, was needed for renovations that will carry 15- to 20-year guarantees. The building will increase the AVMA's visibility in Washington and make a clear statement about the Association's political commitment.

Dr. Bruce W. Little, AVMA executive vice president, said, "These refurbishments will bring the building into a state of repair that AVMA members can be proud of for many years to come."

The brick double row house office building is connected on all four floors. Located in Washington's central business district, the building cost $2.525 million. Up to now, the AVMA has leased space in Washington, at an ever-increasing rate.

Starting this spring, the AVMA will host congressional introductions receptions at the beginning of each Congress, every two years, to help promote AVMA's legislative agenda to appropriate members of Congress and congressional staff. The board authorized spending $7,000 per reception. The first one is tentatively scheduled for April 19, 2005.

"The spring congressional reception will be held at the time when the AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee and AVMA Political Action Committee Policy Board will be in D.C. So, this will be a great opportunity for these AVMA members to visit with members of Congress and Hill staffers about the AVMA legislative agenda," said GRD director, Dr. Michael Chaddock. "We will concentrate on inviting those members who are on committees where the AVMA legislative agenda will be discussed."

The Association will continue to promote its agenda throughout the year and will now be able to use the University Club of Washington, D.C. The board approved $3,000 for a one-time initiation fee and $1,800 annually for AVMA membership in the club. "It offers everything we don't have in the new D.C. building," says AVMA treasurer Dr. James Peddie. "This is one of those win-win things."

The club will be used to host meetings and interact with congressional and executive branch officials and staffers, as well as other advocacy group/association leaders, to promote the AVMA legislative and regulatory agenda.

The club is in a prime location in Washington, with the new D.C. office and the White House within a five-block radius. AVMA staff, committee members, and leaders will be able to stay at one of the 55 hotel accommodations that the University Club has to offer at a competitive rate. The club also has meeting rooms available for reservation, which can accommodate events too large for the new D.C. building.

Since the AVMAPAC has been taking a more active role in advocating the AVMA agenda to members of Congress and officials in the federal government, the board voted to change the PAC's charge to indicate its more active role. An additional line was added to indicate that the board will "assist in the implementation of the Executive Board-approved legislative and regulatory agenda by contacting federal officials and staff via email, phone, fax, and/or personal visits while in Washington, D.C. and/or the home district."

Additionally, the Executive Board approved the concept of a new AVMAPAC marketing plan, which is also expected to give AVMA's political agenda a major boost. Currently, fewer than five percent of AVMA members contribute annually to the AVMAPAC, which raises roughly $500,000 per two-year election cycle. The PAC hopes the new marketing plan, which has a multiprong approach, will increase the number of donors and assist the PAC in its goal of becoming a $1 million organization by the end of the 2008 cycle.

The PAC marketing plan will be implemented over the next few years and will initially focus on educating veterinarians about the federal legislative and regulatory process. The GRD will develop an updated educational brochure that discusses the legislative and regulatory procedures, a citizen's role in effecting that process and how a citizen goes about lobbying, and the role of the PAC. The marketing plan will expand and maintain the number of veterinarians in the grassroots network by establishing a legislative coordinator in each state and having them provide congressional and Senate contacts, placing ads and articles in publications, and distributing brochures. To further aid in education, the PAC will develop and distribute a bimonthly email newsletter for veterinarians interested in the political scene in Washington, D.C.

The PAC will also take measures to clearly place AVMA in the minds of potential donors, reinforce the role PAC dollars play in the legislative and regulatory process, and optimally solicit qualified potential and current donors.

"I am delighted with the board's action and approval of the well-thought-out recommendations from the AVMAPAC and the Legislative Advisory Committee," Dr. Chaddock commented. "These are tools that will help AVMA accomplish more successes in the federal legislative arena."

Dr. Chaddock stresses, however, that the best tools are individual AVMA members who are willing to contact their members of Congress on behalf of the AVMA legislative agenda, either in their home districts or in Washington, D.C.

"If any AVMA member is planning a trip to Washington, D.C., please contact any of us here at the GRD office and we will help plan a meeting for them with their member of Congress or senators," Dr. Chaddock said.