government affairs blog

Reaching Our Grassroots Potential

Posted by David Pinkham on July 21, 2014

Having lived in and around major cities my entire life, I was never able to fully grasp the scope and true impact of our industry. Even after I started working at the Auto Care Association, it wasn’t until I began to visit members and travel on my own time to the rural areas and small towns where our members operate, that I came to the realization that our industry’s shops, stores, factories and warehouses could be found in nearly every town, county and district, no matter how isolated. Plus, in many cases, the auto care industry offered some of the best jobs in town and those working these jobs tended to be very much in tune with the happenings of their small communities.


Sure, the national industry stats — the 4.2 million jobs, $318 billion in sales, 2.2 percent of U.S. GDP, etc. — effectively illustrate our industry’s immense size and huge positive impact on the U.S. economy. However, one of our real strengths, from a political influence perspective, is that you’d be hard-pressed to find a federal or state legislative district that does not have an auto care business within its borders. Locating and fully harnessing these potential grassroots resources has always been our most difficult task, but one that is critical to the future success of the association’s government affairs agenda.


As you might have guessed, political advocacy in this country, similar to merchandising and distribution, has reached a point where data drives everything. It separates the most effective association government affairs programs from the least effective. Last summer, we began talking to a small segment of our most active members to get a sense of whether they could provide value to our grassroots program beyond what they had already offered. We attempted to gauge to what extent they were (1) politically active and (2) had relationships with federal or state elected officials. What we found was that even the members we worked with on a regular basis were more politically active in their communities than we previously thought or had relationships with key legislators that we had no idea existed. Our goal from there was to try to expand our efforts to survey a larger segment of our membership and provide an easy, quick medium for anyone to share this valuable information with us.


Therefore, this week, we will be deploying a new survey, which will serve to provide us with more information on our members than ever before. The survey, which will be sent out to the entire Auto Care Association membership, will ask very straightforward, non-intrusive questions including:


  • Which issue do you think is currently the most important facing the auto care industry?
  • How active have you been in federal, state or local politics?
  • List any officials with whom you have a relationship, either directly or through their staff.


Our goal is to ask these important questions so that when an issue arises and we find that we need to get in touch with a particular elected official, we are immediately aware of an individual from our industry who either knows that official personally or who is simply a passionate, well-connected constituent who wants to help. Please remember that all information provided through the survey will not be used in any way other than to assist in the Auto Care Association’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill and in the states. We will not leverage your relationship with a particular legislator beyond a simple reference without first contacting you.


The survey is 18 questions and is comprised of mostly simple multiple choice questions. Please contact us at govaffairs@autocare.org or 240-333-1028 if you have any questions, or if you prefer to provide us with this information over email or phone.


Thank you in advance for your participation.

Keywords: Grassroots, Lobbying

All Politics is Local: Two New Resources to Help the Aftermarket Catch Up in the Advocacy Game

Posted by David Pinkham on July 15, 2013

While news from Capitol Hill continues to dominate the headlines, legislators are, more than ever, focused primarily on what’s happening in their local districts and states. When it comes to being reelected, it’s no longer how a legislator is polling nationally nor how voters view Congress as a whole, but rather how an individual is viewed in the eyes of his or her own constituents. Thus, what holds true for legislators must hold true for the aftermarket’s advocacy efforts. In order for us to more effectively reach out and inspire action on the part of legislators, we must approach them in such a manner that highlights the impact on where 99 percent of their focus is: their home districts.


In meeting this important advocacy goal, we have added two new features to our political advocacy website,www.aaiagovernmentaffairs.org. The first of which serves to strengthen our messaging through district-specific economic data on our industry while the other addresses our industry’s organizational efforts by encouraging collaboration with state-specific aftermarket organizations.


Economic Impact by District: Our first new addition to the site features an interactive map and drop-down menu that display analytical reports on aftermarket economic data by congressional district. These reports, which display up-to-date employment numbers, facility counts and key talking points, all in an effectively advocacy-focused manner, can serve as useful tools in correspondence with legislators. Ever wondered how many jobs the aftermarket employs in your district? This new feature not only highlights those numbers, but it delivers them in such a way that a legislator can truly appreciate the impact of your business and others in the supply chain. This sort of information, when compartmentalized in this fashion, is one of the most useful instruments in a company’s advocacy arsenal since much of politics is not only local, but also numbers-driven.


Click here to access the “Aftermarket Economic Data by District” page. It can also be found under the “Information for Legislators” tab on the left.


State Advocacy Groups: The second resource we now offer is a comprehensive list of every state aftermarket association that AAIA has partnered with over the years to address issues at the state and local levels. Given that most of the hot-button issues on our radar continue to initially appear at the state level, our first line of defense remains the state aftermarket groups, who constantly have their ear to the ground in their respective regions. These groups are both well-connected with state legislators and well-positioned within the industry to advocate on behalf of the aftermarket in most state capitals. Our hope is to use this page to not only help you connect with your state aftermarket group, but also to promote state-centered legislative events and alerts critical to our advocacy efforts.


Click here to access the “State Associations” page. It can also be found under the “Additional Resources” tab on the left.


As we’ve said before, for a $300 billion industry that supports four million American jobs, the aftermarket’s messaging influence and political organization do not come close to matching its economic robustness. We hope that by using these tools, the industry can both effectively deliver its message and organize swiftly at a more local level. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or feedback at govaffairs@aftermarket.org

Keywords: Grassroots, Lobbying

AAIA to Develop Database of Member-Legislator Relationships

Posted by David Pinkham on June 07, 2013

Do you live down the street from a state senator? Do you regularly meet with your U.S. senator in his or her local state office? Or perhaps you regularly attempt relive your old college days with a current U.S. Congressman who happened to be your freshman year roommate?


These types of relationships are ideal examples of the information AAIA is striving to gather as we expand our grassroots database to include such valuable data from our membership. In Washington, relationships are key, and this kind of information can help make your association’s government affairs efforts significantly more effective.


AAIA is in the process of distributing a survey to determine which of our members have a strong relationship, personal or professional, with one or more elected state or federal officials. Our objective is to thoroughly survey the AAIA membership for relationships with elected officials who then would help the association further its government affairs goals.


Since all relationships are different, the survey strives to not only find out which legislators our members know, but also the nature of those relationships. Therefore, the survey asks for the names of elected officials that you know and then provides options to choose from in defining the relationship such as “friend,” “neighbor” or “hosted a fundraiser.” Next, there is an opportunity to elaborate in order to help the government affairs staff better understand that relationship. Providing as much detail as possible will help our staff to analyze the nature of each relationship so we best optimize our approach in dealing with each legislative office.


This survey, along with other initiatives recently undertaken AAIA’s government affairs department, is part of a concerted effort to reach out to a wider array of elected officials in order to better educate them on our industry and our issues. For a $300 billion industry that provides over four million jobs to the American economy, the aftermarket’s political organization efforts do not come close matching its economic robustness. However, continuing to develop a grassroots network which includes a database of legislator relationships can greatly strengthen our presence on Capitol Hill and during negotiations over important aftermarket and business-related issues.


Important information to keep in mind:


  • The survey allows you to complete your responses for one legislator at a time. If you have a relationship with more than one legislator, you can access the survey multiple times to complete your responses for each additional legislator.
  • We encourage you to share all relationships, since all contacts are important, but we especially want to hear about close relationships that might be useful in building support for our industry government affairs agenda.
  • All information provided through the survey will not be used in any way other than to assist in AAIA’s advocacy efforts on Capitol Hill. AAIA will not leverage your relationship with a particular legislator beyond a simple reference without first contacting you.
  • If you prefer, you are welcome to provide us with any information over the phone at 301-654-6664 or simply by email at govaffairs@aftermarket.org


Thanks to all members in advance for their help in making this survey a success! To access the survey please click here or copy the following URL into your web browser: http://research.zarca.com/k/RQsSXWTsQYRsPsPsP

Keywords: Grassroots, Lobbying

It’s Spring – Do You Know Where Your Congressman Is?

Posted by Aaron Lowe on March 22, 2013

While schools around the country are in the midst of spring break, Congress will be taking its version of spring break, leaving the nation’s capital for a two-week recess. No doubt, the press will call this a vacation and the usual accusations that Congress is taking too much time off will be moving through the air waves, newspapers and of course social media. Clearly, Congress does appear to take a lot of time off. The House takes a minimum of one week off every month to spend in their districts. Legislators also leave Washington for a week during major holidays like Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day and July 4th -- and let’s not forget the month-long break in August.


Is it a vacation? Many legislators will spend at least some of the next two weeks on vacations with their families. Others will go on “fact finding” trips that are intended to help them do their job better. Some of these trips often are to war zones like Afghanistan where they can obtain first-hand knowledge of how the war is progressing. You also will find some legislators in the district, meeting with constituents, holding town hall events or meeting with local officials on issues close to home. Many, if not all, legislators, also will focus on their re-election campaign, whether it’s planning the next campaign or raising money. Legislators, especially Congressmen, are under such incredible pressure to raise money that they are almost always in campaign mode.


There is definitely a debate in Washington and around the country as to whether legislators should be spending more or less time in the Capitol attempting to resolve some the nation’s major budget issues rather than back home. However, I think the real debate is not how much time they are spending in Washington, but really how are they spending that time. I’m not going to delve into that debate.


The reality is that legislators are home and, like it or not, this fact does present some opportunities for people employed in the aftermarket to get some “face time” with their elected official. Elected officials are often more accessible and are less hassled when they are home, out of the constant time crunch they face in the Capitol. There is no need for an agenda in these face- to-face meetings, just a chance to let them know that you either live or work in their district and that you cared enough to let them know it. If you are holding a Car Care Event as part of April’s National Car Care Month, invite them to attend. They may not come, but at least they will be aware of it.


Getting face time with your legislator can have a big pay-off should something come up in Congress and you need their vote. Also, legislators can help constituents navigate tricky federal regulatory issues that might arise and that might have a negative impact on your company. It’s not to say that they would get you out of trouble if you don’t pay your taxes, but they can provide assistance and can get the attention of federal agencies when you need it. Another great way to get involved is to attend one of their in-district fundraisers where you will definitely get spend some quality time with your Congressman.


So you can complain about all of the time Congress spends on vacation, or you can use it to your advantage. That is your choice. Oh, and before I forget, please let us know that you have been contacted with your legislator. That information can be invaluable to us if we need to contact your elected official regarding an issue impacting the industry.


Thanks and I hope everyone has a great National Car Care Month!

Who Are the Real Heroes When it Comes to Lobbying?

Posted by Aaron Lowe on February 22, 2013

No matter what you may hear in the news about how technology is replacing people, the fact is that in the end, the success of any industry is dependent not on the technology, but the people who work in it. People develop the strategy for how a product is to be produced and marketed and it is people that will need to effectively implement the strategy.


The same holds true for lobbying. The success or failure of a lobbying effort is often dependent on the people who participate—clearly the professional lobbyists, but maybe more important, the people from the industry that become involved in the issue on behalf of their companies and the industry. An industry that has a large number of people that are willing to passionately make their case to legislators will find success in achieving their goals.


I can definitely point to the willingness of an industry member to come out and meet with legislators or their staff as a key reason why we have won battles in state legislatures and in Congress. While lobbyists can meet all day long, it is the constituents that can really drive home a message with an elected official. No one really tells the story as well as someone who is living the story, someone who is actually a part of the industry that a lobbyist represents.


The importance of people in a lobbying battle comes to mind recently with our recent victory in Oklahoma. Through the efforts of some individuals from our industry, we were able to prevent consideration of a bill that would have had an extremely negative impact on the aftermarket parts industry. While I am always hesitant to mention a name since there are often many people involved in an effort, I feel that it is appropriate to mention one in particular: Jack Vollbrecht from Remy International.


This month, Vollbrecht spent days at the capitol in Oklahoma City explaining how the aftermarket and consumers would be hurt by a bill that required repair shops doing insurance-related repairs to provide a disclosure to car owners when a non-original equipment emissions or safety related part was being used in a repair. Adding insult to injury, the bill further would require the car owner to sign a consent form that they would accept the use the non-original equipment part as if the use of a non-OE part meant getting a second rate component for a repair. Pointing to the negative implications of this requirement on non-original equipment parts, Vollbrecht explained to legislators how these parts are often as good, or better, than the OE part they replaced, and in many cases, made by the same company. It wasn’t easy, but in the end with the help of other aftermarket companies, including LKQ, NAPA and O’Reilly, Vollbrecht convinced key legislators to back off support of the bill and it is currently looking like this bill will die in the legislature.


Winning on an issue can require some good strategy and sometimes spending a lot of money. However, victory often comes down to having the right people involved in the effort—people who have the facts, willingness to work hard and, most importantly, are passionate about the cause. This appears to be the case in Oklahoma.


Of course, this is only one story and throughout the years there have been many stories of individuals who have given up their time to help defeat or pass legislation in order to protect our industry. However, today, I would like to send some appreciation to Jack Vollbrecht and his company Remy for their willingness to take on this legislative effort on behalf of the aftermarket. We couldn’t do what we do so well without companies and individuals like them. I hope they will serve as an example of how the people in our industry are one of the most important ingredients in the success of our industry’s government affairs efforts.

Keywords: Grassroots, Lobbying

The Aftermarket's Real Perception Problem

Posted by Aaron Lowe on February 01, 2013

The introduction of a bill (S. 1051) in the state of Oklahoma that would require motorists to receive a written disclosure regarding the use of an aftermarket emissions, safety or crash-related part should be a wake-up call that our industry has a real perception problem with elected officials. While the bill only specifies that the disclosure must happen if the repair is being paid for by an insurance company, it is clear that legislators have very little understanding of our industry or the quality or origin of aftermarket related parts.


Clearly, a disclosure requirement such as the one under consideration in Oklahoma will put a negative stigma in the consumer’s mind regarding the use of a part not manufactured by the car company. No matter what the repair shop does to explain the law, the consumer is going to wonder why a disclosure is required in the case of an aftermarket part and not the original equipment part.


Of course, a key reason for the perception regarding aftermarket parts is the marketing being done by the vehicle manufacturers that the only way to be sure that you have the best part on your car is to purchase from them. Yes, the marketing of their product to car owners is fair and to be expected. However, the fact that that the car companies and dealers are moving to secure their market through legislation signals that the competitive marketplace is not working for them, and that they are moving to the legislative theater where they hold more cards.


Whether the bill passes or not, the mere fact that a state is considering these disclosures at all should send warning flags up in our industry that we need to work together to defeat this attack on the reputation of aftermarket parts. Everyone in the industry must take responsibility to educate legislators and regulators that aftermarket parts are either as good or, in many cases, better than the original equipment part that it is replacing. In fact, the aftermarket often improves on a part since we have the fortunate opportunity to observe the part in use and can determine where there might be a problem with the OE design. Further, aftermarket parts are often built by the same company that the produced the OE part, only the label on the box is different.


The bottom line is that it is critical that everyone send letters and/or meet with legislators to defeat these bills before they have a chance to move any further.


I can guarantee you that if you don’t speak up in support of your company’s own product, and our industry overall, don’t expect legislators to see through the allegations by the car companies that only their parts are high quality. Yes, I know that parts producers in our industry compete against each other for the spending dollars of consumers. However, the threat of legislation and regulation in the aftermarket parts industry impacts all companies in our industry and demands that everyone go on the offensive together, letting legislators know that bills such as the one in Oklahoma are misguided and will only end up hurting their constituents in higher repair prices with no impact on parts quality.


Companies with facilities in the state of Oklahoma can quickly send a letter to their elected official on the aftermarket parts legislation by visiting our Legislative Action Center.

Keywords: Grassroots, Lobbying

A Walkthrough of AAIA's New Political Advocacy Website

Posted by David Pinkham on January 18, 2013

Earlier this week our government affairs team launched this new website. Our hope was to create a valuable tool to assist both us and our members in our ongoing mission to accelerate AAIA’s political advocacy efforts. With more than 23,000 members, large and small, and at every level of the supply chain, our association remains poised to make a huge impact in political engagement. However, the success of any association’s legislative and regulatory initiatives begins with you, the members of the association. Your commitment to making your voice heard by members of Congress on issues that we care about as an industry is what will help advance our collective interests here in Washington, D.C.


While you will see a lot of the same information that was available on our former site, including issue briefs, our Capital Report newsletter and links to key government agencies, hopefully you will notice the major changes to the grassroots and political action committee sections, which have been entirely revamped to make engaging in our advocacy efforts not only easier, but more rewarding.


Our new “Become an Advocate” section offers users the ability to find their state and federal legislators and contact them about a specific issue relating to your business. The heart of the new website is the newly-energized Legislative Action Center. While the center will still permit members to send letters on issues of importance to the industry, it also will be the place to go for members who want to be key advocates in advancing the industry’s legislative agenda. Key advocates will service as the go-to members that can be counted on to make contact with legislators if an issue comes up that requires immediate attention. Our hope is to encourage as many members as possible show their commitment by becoming an advocate, and then provide us with both the action and knowledge necessary to achieve a certain advocacy goal.


The Automotive Aftermarket Political Action Committee (AAPAC) has been an important facet of our legislative efforts on Capitol Hill for many years, but our competitors continue to outraise us by a wide margin, thus allowing them additional access to key legislators. We have ambitious goals for AAPAC in the coming years, but we will not achieve them without the backing of our members. The new site not only provides more information on why AAPAC is critical to our industry’s future, but will make it easier for our members to participate.


Finally, state legislative initiatives impacting our industry continue to grow. The new website provides an easy way to easy way to keep track of state legislation relevant to the aftermarket. Check out the map on the State Legislative page to see what state legislation that we are tracking and their status in their respective legislature. We will continue to develop this feature, including adding subcategories of “topic” and “priority,” to ensure that our members can conveniently benefit from it on a regular basis.


Our team has set lofty goals for our advocacy program and this website will provide us and our members the necessary jumping-off point to move forward. Of course, we took on this redesign project to make it easier for our members to get involved in our efforts so please feel free to contact any one of us with recommendations on how we can improve the site. We appreciate your support and commitment to keeping the aftermarket an active and thriving industry.

Keywords: AAPAC, Grassroots, Lobbying