Strange Bedfellows

In the mid 1990’s, I worked with a coalition of trade associations that seemingly had no relation to one another – funeral directors, snowboarders, auto mechanics, farmers and others who joined together to collectively advocate for an issue important to all of them.  What tied them together?  They all accepted personal checks, and in many cases, in-store credit.  And, they all had been stung disproportionately by customers who – even though they had the money to pay – filed for bankruptcy and left these businesses to pick up the tab.  Together, they formed the Coalition for Responsible Bankruptcy Laws, and together they had a major impact in the ultimate passage of meaningful bankruptcy reform.

There are other coalitions I’ve worked with that include direct competitors who come together to advocate for – or work to defeat – legislation or regulation that would impact the way their industry does business.  These are actually my favorite coalitions to manage.  There’s a distinct excitement in the air when CEO’s from fierce competitors gather around a table, cordially sipping coffee and enjoying their lawful right to collectively lobby their government on an issue important to all of them.  I remember a group of leading pharmaceutical giants filing into one of our conference rooms early one morning for a strategy session.  I watched with awe as they exchanged handshakes and golf pleasantries even as the morning paper detailed a number of rather pointed jabs between these same executives.  I kept thinking there must be a lot of “compartments” in a CEO’s brain, with nice strong doors that formed barriers between the “defeat competitors” and “fight onerous legislation” chambers…

In Washington – regardless of the issue, the size of the budget, their reputation, or their past experiences – very few “interests” work alone in the policy arena.  These symbiotic alliances typically prove to be more cost effective, and ultimately more successful at achieving an organization’s public policy objectives.

Interest group activity has truly exploded over the last four to five decades.    According to research by Kay Schlozman and John Tierney, 67 percent of respondents indicated that their organizations had increased their levels of participation in issue coalitions in the last decade – and that entering into a coalition ranks second on a list of 27 techniques of influence in Washington.

Nowhere is the old adage more true than in Washington, D.C. – politics makes for strange bedfellows.  But when they win – and they often do – I’m quite sure they get a good night’s rest.

Strange Bedfellows

In the mid 1990’s, I worked with a coalition of trade associations that seemingly had no relation to one another – funeral directors, snowboarders, auto mechanics, farmers and others who joined together to collectively advocate for an issue important to all of them.  What tied them together?  They all accepted personal checks, and in many cases, in-store credit.  And, they all had been stung disproportionately by customers who – even though they had the money to pay – filed for bankruptcy and left these businesses to pick up the tab.  Together, they formed the Coalition for Responsible Bankruptcy Laws, and together they had a major impact in the ultimate passage of meaningful bankruptcy reform.
There are other coalitions I’ve worked with …

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