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Greetings from our Annual Convention and Legislative Summit, where we have a jam-packed agenda and our highest number of attendees since before COVID. We got a late start to allow for Mother’s Day travel, so we have a lot to accomplish and a truncated schedule in which to do it. But this is a determined group, and we got right down to business yesterday with our Board of Directors meeting, during which we celebrated our PAC growth (and that growth is significant – we are on pace for a record-setting fundraising year), bid farewell to our 2023-2024 Board Chair Jay Wolverton, and welcomed Gary Raba as our Chairman for 2024-2025.

Also on the agenda at our Board Meeting was my President’s Report, in which I outlined my thoughts on where we are as a council, an industry, and a country as we head into the thick of the election season. As I told the Board, I think ACEC is stronger and better positioned than we have ever been, and we are prepared for whatever might happen in November. In an election year whose outcome is anybody’s guess, we aren’t leaving anything to chance.

Yesterday morning, we heard from American Enterprise Institute Senior Fellow Kevin Kosar and NPR Political Correspondent Mara Liasson, who both shared their perspectives on the state of American politics. Kevin’s talk was more academic and data-driven, focusing on ways to fix a political system that simply no longer works as well as it should. He discussed potential reforms that could create better incentives for candidates – and, in turn, better candidates for voters. As public trust in institutions continues to fall, Kevin contends that putting more power in the hands of voters to choose candidates through reforms such as open primaries, ranked choice voting and nonpartisan redistricting would go a long way toward restoring faith in elections. The byproduct of that, he said, is that you may get candidates who are more interested in governing than partisan sniping.

That climate of partisan sniping formed the basis of Mara Liasson’s presentation. American politics, she asserted, have become too much of a zero-sum game. She pointed to a New Yorker cartoon in which a dog tells a bartender: “It’s not enough that dogs win. Cats must also die.” It wouldn’t be a Washington gathering without handicapping the election. Asked to give her prediction on the November outcome, Mara shared that the consensus inside the Beltway is that former President Trump is the favorite. She went on to say that polls indicate voters don’t like either candidate but noted that elections are referendums on the incumbent. As Americans continue to experience sticker shock at the grocery store and the gas pump, inflation could be the determining factor should Biden lose reelection. Said Liasson: “Inflation defeats presidents.”

What was fascinating in listening to both Kevin and Mara is where their perspectives converged: namely on the need for election reform and how such reforms could help restore faith in our political process. As we head to Capitol Hill later this week, I think it’s important to have a full and realistic view of the climate of Washington. Because you can’t change what you don’t understand.

I have lived in or around Washington my whole life, and one thing I have learned is that both victory and loss are ephemeral. That seems especially true now, when politics are so polarized that every inch of progress gained feels like a mile. That is why those record-setting PAC numbers are so critical. It’s not just a question of dollars raised. Those numbers are confirmation of relationships that we have forged, connections we have made, and credibility we have gained – all of which will continue to be relevant irrespective of what party wins Congress or whose name is on the welcome mat at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue next January 20.


May 15, 2024



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