In today’s Washington, says Robert Hay Jr., even associations that lobby need a lobbyist of their own.
Hay is manager of public policy for ASAE, the Center for Association Leadership. It represents more than 21,000 association executives and industry partners representing 10,000 organizations, from well-known trade groups such as the National Association of Manufacturers to convention and visitors bureaus around the country. The organization took in $520,000 during the first three quarters of 2011.
“We have a very varied portfolio … we do a little bit of everything,” said Hay, a Washington, D.C. native who became interested in policy matters watching his father work at the Defense Department. He came to ASAE in 2006 after working in government relations for the American Veterinary Medical Association.
His current job includes keeping abreast of policies and legislation regarding human resources management, meetings and travel as well as tax-related issues. The Center was among the players in last year’s successful repeal of the unpopular 1099 tax-reporting provision of the national health-care law.
“Our members were irate,” Hay recalled. “We came out early and said this needs to be repealed, and told our members you have to do visits, you have to do calls. We all got together and really pushed this.”
He’s learned that such a grassroots approach is essential to getting things done. Having lobbyists talk to Congress and administration officials, he said, is no substitute for getting affected local interests to talk to their elected representatives.
“They are the ones who can explain things best to members of Congress,” he said. “Our members get it, for the most part.”
Hay also has worked with associations in signing on to ASAE’s comments on the Obama administration’s proposed rule restricting government employees from accepting invitations to trade association programs and events. The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) has made exceptions to the proposed rule allowing attendance at events held by 501(c)(3) organizations, professional societies, institutions of higher education, scientific organizations and learned societies. But ASAE countered that trade associations are excluded because of the administration’s misperception that all these organizations do is lobby.
Another part of ASAE’s work is maintaining the image of what associations represent. Hay is quick to cite their importance as local economic drivers: in the District of Columbia, for example, one out of every 11 private-sector employees works for an association.
“Most people are connected to an association through a relative or friend or spouse in a PTA or Boy Scouts or another organization,” he said. “The key is to educate them on taking the next step – here’s what they’re doing to make the local economy better.”
In addition to his work with ASAE, Hay is active in the American League of Lobbyists. He serves on the board of ALL’s Young Lobbyists Network, which seeks to foster communication among lobbyists under age 35. The group has been trying to become more active in the community, participating in a recent service day with Habitat for Humanity that it plans to make into an annual event, as well as working on an upcoming project with a local food kitchen.
His enthusiasm has impressed other ALL members. Last year the ALL board invited him to join its meetings as a non-voting member to give the Young Lobbyist Network a voice; he eventually was elected to a full voting position on the board. “Robert Hay is far ahead of his years,” said board member Michael Fulton, executive vice president and head of the government relations practice at GolinHarris Public Affairs.