Political Advocacy’s Extra Mile

I've been fascinated with politics since I was in the second grade. I remember our teacher even conducted a mini-election. Who wouldn't be fascinated with the political events of those days? It was 1968. Bobby Kennedy was assassinated and the last chance to implement many of his brother's policies died along with him. George Wallace actually won an entire state's electoral votes, even with his proud platform of racism. And, Richard Nixon just barely beat Hubert Humphrey, essentially ending the realignment of the Democratic Party started by FDR, setting the country up for Watergate, and forever changing how the press treats our leaders.

I've often wondered what the seventies would have been like if just one of those events hadn't happened. I also wonder if our current presidential candidates would look quite the same.

There's no way of knowing, but one thing I do know about our political past: big changes are very often made by the actions of a relatively small group of people who are not considered political insiders. I've witnessed it first hand with our political advocacy work here at a la mode. (pq)

We knew within hours of receiving the information about the HVCC what was right and what was wrong about it. We knew what we were going to do about it and that it would not only take political strategy, but it would also take action-oriented tactics. Most often strategy development is done in private. That's why you didn't hear from us within days of the HVCC release, like you did from a couple of service providers who thought they had just received manna from heaven. We aligned our lobbying and public affairs team, analyzed the specific changes that must be made to the HVCC, built our position documents, then very thoughtfully made our position public.

We are unique among our competitors - we're willing to advocate for appraisers and commit time and money to stick up for you in a very public way. But we're still a technology company, not a registered Political Action Committee or K Street lobbying firm. We've learned a lot from our experiences in the past few months, and there are little known facts and rules in the political advocacy arena that are not only important to know, but are also, in my opinion, pretty interesting.

For example, I didn't know until recently that 85% of Members of Congress use "web forms" instead of normal e-mail to receive communications from their constituents and do so deliberately. It makes sense in these days of managing spam and computer viruses. But it makes it much harder to organize mass communications with all members of Congress on a national issue like the HVCC; we now have to manage all those hundreds of individual Congressional websites and their various and disparate feedback and e-mail forms.

But this also means that 15% of the members of Congress don't use web-based communication forms and not everyone in that 15% prefers standard e-mail, either. Some still prefer hand-delivery, some prefer fax, and others prefer talking on the phone. And when something as important as the health of the entire appraisal industry is at stake, you've got to reach them all the way they want to be reached. Even though we're quite confident in our ability to communicate with large numbers of people via e-mail and fax, our normal domain does not include Members of Congress.

To bridge that gap, we've partnered with Capital Advantage, a Washington, D.C.-based company that specializes in communicating with Members of Congress. Capital Advantage is very well known in the political advocacy arena. Among many other special skills and services, Capital Advantage maintains updated contact information for over 45,000 public officials and approximately 5,000 media contacts.

Capital Advantage manages Congressional contacts through their close relationship with the various Congressional offices and the Congressional Management Foundation. They secure authentication and web form compliance, so when we use their system to communicate with Congress, we can be confident our messages are delivered successfully.

Many of you (well over 30,000) are now familiar with the advocacy section of our website, located at www.alamode.com/action. Now when you visit that page, you'll find a very powerful set of tools which are powered in part by Capital Advantage. Before we've provided our in-house communication forms for online delivery of your letters to Congress and various tool kits you've used to schedule meetings with your representatives and senators. Now you'll find an even more comprehensive legislative action center.

Our site now includes automated ZIP Code-to-district matching, federal and state vote scorecards and bill information, as well as all the standard communication tools that compare favorably to tools used by any advocacy organization working in the political arena today.

In my personal opinion, the most important thing this site provides both you and us is flexibility. The HVCC is one of many issues that will need to be resolved. And your need for political action won't go away. Before it might have taken a large issue on a national level to warrant this kind of effort. No more. Moving forward we'll be able to help you respond to regional or even local issues quickly and effectively. You can do your part by using the site - none of us can forget how important that part is. You've got to make your voice heard. But we've taken on the responsibility of giving you the tools to do it. And we'll continue to do so as long our role is needed and driven by you.

Yes, this is all very expensive and time consuming. If our competitors had the dedication and wherewithal to do these things for you, it's questionable they would be able to afford them. But, as we've said consistently for almost twenty-five years, we're pro-appraiser and will never waver from that position. And we'll continue to put our money where our mouth is, because we want you to make money so we can make money. We want you to continue to succeed so we can continue to succeed. We're in for the long haul and our commitment to independent appraisers and to the protection of the appraisal industry will continue to be our first priority. Our new political action site is just another public example of that fact.