James.qxp Sept Oct 2018 web (2) - Page 11

have a confession: it had been years since my last
visit to the dentist. I knew I was supposed to have
regular checkups, but I just kept putting it off.
I wasn’t having any issues, but had this gnawing feeling
of uncertainty— what if something was wrong? When I
finally bit the bullet and made an appointment, I learned just
how much had changed. They had digital X-rays, cameras to
show you details of your teeth, and plenty of other new technology. And I got to experience the sense of relief that my
teeth were in decent shape after all. I finally eliminated the
uncertain feeling, but only because I got the checkup.
Many things in life require regular checkups that are
easy to put off. One of those is your method of engagement
in the political arena. For years, the way to get good policy
was simple: hire a lobbyist and set up a PAC to make contributions. But as time passed and the law changed, new
avenues have opened for telling your story— and you
won’t know what those are if you don’t get a checkup.
Checkups can assure you that everything is fine with
your current approach. Your organization may be on
exactly the right track. But checkups allow you to think
creatively about ways to become more effective.
Take one example: using independent expenditure
organizations to advance policy and candidates. There are
a variety of legal vehicles that can effectively tell stories to
Georgia voters and policymakers that are rarely used,
including a number that have no contribution limits and
few reporting requirements.
Maybe you want to conduct nonpartisan voter education. If you educate voters about nonpartisan information, such as a ballot question or SPLOST, all that activity can qualify for tax-preferred treatment in a charitable
organization. Donors can give an unlimited amount of
money, they don’t have to be disclosed and they actually
receive a tax deduction for the donation. And we all get
good policy as a result.
Those wishing to advocate for or against an issue
before the legislature or other governing bodies also have
options. Issue advocacy can be handled by groups that
raise unlimited donations from donors who do not have to
be disclosed. Those organizations can hire lobbyists.
Communications can even include incumbent names and
information, so long as they do not call for the election or
defeat of a particular candidate.
But even if you want to advance a candidate or urge
people to vote against an individual, a Georgia independent committee can spend an unlimited amount of money
in support of that effort— as long as you disclose your
donors and avoid coordination with the campaigns.
And there are even more options using federally registered political organizations. While those organizations
must disclose donors to the IRS, they can raise unlimited
dollars and be used for purposes ranging from centralized
caucus fundraising to legal defense funds.
Each of these entities can be used as part of a strategic
plan to reach voters or policy makers with a persuasive story.
Why don’t more people use these kinds of vehicles to
get their message out? Some people probably think they
are too complex to be used with their organizations, but
most of these entities can function without a high level of
overhead. Most people, though, just aren’t aware that
effective advocacy can include these options.
So what should you do?
First, make sure you know your story. As study after
study demonstrates, stories persuade people far better than
facts. Do you know your story? If not, make sure you get
your story straight.
Second, get a checkup. Talk with an experienced
strategist or attorney about how you are trying to reach
policymakers or voters. What you are doing now may be
exactly what you should be doing— but you won’t know
unless you ask.
Third, work your plan. Use all the tools at your disposal to tell your story and tell it effectively.
Don’t limit yourself by failing to consider all options.
It’s worth the time for a checkup to see if you are at your
most effective.
Bryan P. Tyson is of counsel at Strickland Brockington Lewis LLP and the
principal of Tyson Strategies LLC, a political and legal strategy firm.


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