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This is not a drill…

Member society executives consistently rank political advocacy as an “essential” benefit of Alliance membership. And members tell us that of all the public policy issues on which the Alliance advocates, the promotion, protection, and preservation of the fraternal tax exemption is by far the most important.

The success of the Alliance’s advocacy efforts relies on two key ingredients:

1)  Dedicated professional staff and retained lobbyists who track issues important to fraternals at the state and federal level; serve as the eyes, ears, and voice of fraternals in state capitals and Washington, D.C.; and provide public policymakers the information they need to make intelligent decisions on proposals that affect the welfare of their constituents and the nation.

2)  An engaged membership – including executives, employees, field representatives, local chapter leaders and rank-and-file members – willing to communicate with elected leaders on issues important to their societies and the fraternal sector.

Much of our grassroots advocacy efforts involve member society CEOs and senior executives. Over the past several years these targeted programs have allowed the Alliance to raise the awareness of fraternals among public policymakers and cultivate a wide variety of supporters from both sides of the aisle in Congress.

We don’t often ask members to participate in broad-based “Calls to Action,” so when we do, you know it’s important. Now is one of those times.

Senate’s “Blank Slate” proposal…

Earlier this monthly Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, and his GOP counterpart, Senator Orin Hatch (R-Utah), sent a letter to every member of the Senate proposing a “blank slate” approach to tax reform. This approach would eliminate virtually every tax preference, credit, and exemption from the current Tax Code – including the deductions for mortgage interest and charitable contributions – and require those who benefit from such provisions to make a compelling case to lawmakers that such policies should be restored.

Senators Baucus and Hatch stated in their letter that each credit and deduction will be scrutinized and those that cannot be justified will be eliminated. “We plan to operate from an assumption that all special provisions are out unless there is clear evidence that they: 1) help grow the economy, 2) make the tax code fairer, or 3) effectively promote other important policy objectives,” said the letter. Baucus and Hatch indicated that “some existing tax breaks should be preserved in some form,” and asked their colleagues in the Senate to send them feedback on priorities for preserving such provisions by July 26.

Please note the following news and editorial coverage from the New York Times and Washington Post on this topic.

“Prepare to engage!”

Not surprisingly, this development has triggered a feeding-frenzy among groups impacted by the “blank slate” proposal. Organizations whose tax status is threatened are using every tool at their disposal to make sure their voice is heard above the din. And since the Alliance is the only trade group representing fraternals, it is imperative that we inject ourselves into the debate. The risk of standing on the sidelines is simply too great.

Yesterday, the Alliance sent an email to the CEOs of every member society urging them to reach out to Senators and their tax staff and asking that they include support for the continuation of the fraternal exemption in their feedback to Senators Baucus and Hatch. Next week, we’ll be asking member societies to cast the net even wider by engaging their employees, agents, local chapters, and general membership in this grassroots campaign.
Call to ActionWe’re going to make it as easy as possible for you and your members to participate in this effort. We’ll provide you with all the facts and figures that comprise our compelling argument for the preservation of the fraternal exemption, and also provide an on-line tool that allows anyone from your society to send a personal email to their Senators with just a few mouse clicks.

Not too early to start planning your outreach effort…

Even though we won’t begin our broad-based grassroots campaign until next week, you can start preparing your outreach efforts right now. Since this will be an entirely electronic initiative – there is just no time for letters given the tight deadline imposed by the Senate Finance Committee – you’ll need to get a good handle on the individuals within your society’s network of members you can reach via email. If you have your distribution lists prepared by the end of this week, you will be able to quickly turnaround our “Call to Action” email when you receive it next week and get it into the hands of those individuals who are most willing and able to participate.

In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like more information on the Senate Finance Committee’s proposal or the Alliance’s federal and state advocacy activities. Email me at jannotti@fraternalalliance.org or call me at 630.522.6322, ext. 117.

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