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Surrounded by a galaxy of fraternal stars

Last week, in conjunction with the Presidents Section Mid-Year Meeting in Washington, D.C., more than 50 CEOs and senior executives from all sizes and types of Alliance member societies took to Capitol Hill to deliver a message on the value and viability of the fraternal business model. We took this message directly to the members of Congress who will decide whether the century-old fraternal tax exemption will remain on the books. Armed with talking points, one-page flyers detailing the impact fraternals have on lawmakers’ home states, and a copy of the 2012 Congressional Resolution, these executives hit the halls of Congress with evangelistic fervor – and the smiles they brought with them to that evening’s reception on Capitol Hill delivered a very clear message: Mission Accomplished.

During the preparation session for the Hill visits – the one-hour tutorial session where the Alliance’s staff and lobbyists reviewed the objectives, potential pitfalls, schedule, and support materials – I felt like the coach of an All-Star team. All I really had to do was roll the ball out there and let these stars shine.

And they did not disappoint. In a dazzling display of grassroots lobbying, Alliance member society executives came back after their meetings with valuable feedback from the lawmakers and legislative staff with whom they met:

Passing major tax reform this year will be difficult; but in a dysfunctional Congress anything can happen. You are doing the right thing by getting up here and telling your story BEFORE you have to ask to be exempted from a legislative proposal.”

I’m more convinced than ever that fraternals play a vital role in our communities that should be protected and promoted, not undermined.”

As long as I am serving in Congress, you’ll have my support.”


Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI); Joe Hoffman, Order of United Commercial Travelers; Kevin Marti, Gleaner Life Insurance Society

I played the role of “interested observer” that day, watching members go from meeting to meeting and collecting their feedback that evening. Here are a few anecdotes from the day:

• Lino Amaral – The new CEO of Luso-American Life (and our only executive from California) confessed to be nervous about meeting with legislators. You would have never known it, though. Not only did his Portuguese heritage allow him to connect well to several California lawmakers of Portuguese decent (the staff in one office invited him to a private meeting with the Rep. the following day!), he had the ability to strike up conversations and deliver the fraternal message to perfect strangers. I’m not kidding when I say that I seriously think you might see Lino recruited to run for Congress in the not too distant future.

Kevin Marti, Gleaner Life Insurance Society, Staffer; Cynthia Tidwell, Royal Neighbors of America;   Kenny Massey, Modern Woodmen of America

Kevin Marti, Gleaner Life Insurance Society; Ways & Means Committee Staffer; Larry King, Woodmen of the World/Omaha; Cynthia Tidwell, Royal Neighbors of America; Kenny Massey, Modern Woodmen of America

• Cynthia Tidwell – The Alliance’s Capitol Hill reception can get a little hectic, with lawmakers and staff members coming and going between votes and on their way to other events. After a long afternoon of meeting with legislators, you couldn’t blame folks for wanting to chat with their friends, rather than public policymakers. Not Cynthia. When a Congressional staffer walked into the room (they are not hard to pick out since they are all under 30 years old), she walked right up to them, introduced herself, delivered the Alliance and Royal Neighbors stories, and made them feel like she’d known them forever. That’s a gift and we’re lucky to have Cynthia on our side.

• Larry King – The soft-spoken CEO of Woodmen of the World scored one of the night’s major coups as he struck up a conversation with Rep Walter B. Jones (R-NC). Turns out that NC is one of WOW’s largest states and Larry explained in his beautiful Kentucky drawl all the terrific community service events WOW conducts in Rep. Jones’ district. After just a few minutes of conversation, Larry had not only made a new friend, he had also secured an important supporter for the fraternal system. Brilliant.

capitol reception 5

Jaki Gardner, Catholic Holy Family Society; Harald Borrmann, Catholic United Financial; Rick Kleven, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans; Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN)

I could go on forever. There were over 50 Alliance executives participating in the event and every one of them – every single one – had a success story. It was easily the most effective day of political advocacy I’ve been involved with, and I’ve been in this business a long time.

All I can really say to the executives that participated is “Thank You.” We’ve got a great story to tell and we told it flawlessly last week. The fraternal system has a bright future with leaders like you in place.

At the end of the night, one CEO came up to me and summed up our Day on the Hill in these words: “I think we made a difference today.”

3 Responses

  1. Of course a difference was made – you’re a great leader, Joe! Keep up the great work you do to help the fraternal system stay intact.

  2. Very good day!!! Lets all keep up the good work!

  3. We fought this battle and won, many years ago, but they keep coming back. Whatever little money the government can get from taxing the fraternals will never match what the societies do for
    good causes.

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