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February 27, 2012 
Dave's Playbook

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It's been just over a year since former Oklahoma congressman and Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers CEO Dave McCurdy took the top spot at the American Gas Association. We checked in with him to hear how he's spending his energy on... well, energy.
American Gas Association CEO Dave McCurdy
Dave tells us the association accomplished its #1 legislative priority last year: help pass the pipeline safety reauthorization bill (by unanimous vote in the House and Senate no less). Although AGA's HQ is a stone's throw from the US Capitol, Dave says AGA is increasingly focusing on state advocacy and education. Not only is the natural gas industry highly regulated at the state level, but it's also been a hot topic among states in terms of jobs and enhancing revenue. AGA is also looking at international opportunities. The association was selected to host the World Gas Conference in DC in 2018. The selection process is "like an Olympic bid," Dave says. "It was a competition with Qatar and South Korea, and we won." (Hopefully Mitt Romney won't have to swoop in and save them.) To top all that off, membership has increased over the past year.
American Gas Association CEO Dave McCurdy
One idea Dave brought with him to AGA is an organizational playbook (above), which compiles all association policy positions and a narrative about the industry. The booklet (which also has an online component) is given to members of Congress, White House staff, state legislators, regulators, and media. Dave and his board members also use it in speeches and Powerpoints. He used similar playbooks at the Electronic Industries Alliance and the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers. He tells us it helps create message consistency and establish a common set of facts for the industry. It also forces the organization to make sure its message and info are up to date and articulate its priorities: "When I came here, there was tremendous information throughout the organization and the industry; I just didn't think we had it in one place." Now it is.

Seeing Stars
Photo by Matt Brown, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences
There were plenty of first timers at the Oscars last night. But we're talking less about Jean Dujardin and more about Motion Picture Association of America CEO Chris Dodd. This was the first time the former senator attended Hollywood's most prestigious awards ceremony. In fact, when he took the lead at MPAA last year, he inherited membership to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—and an Oscar vote.
Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz
Matt Brown
Bringing Jennifer Lopez and Cameron Diaz on stage together isn't the only good that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences does. As part of its grassroots outreach program, the organization helps charities across the country raise money through its Oscar Night America benefit. The Academy sanctions non-profits to host "official" viewing parties of the awards with proceeds going to those organizations' causes. Last year, the 51 participating charities raised $3.5 million. (Numbers for this year have not yet been released.) Nearly $33.5 million has been raised since the program began in '94.

High Speed Rail To Convene
National Leaders at Summit
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (above with USHSRA VP Thomas Hart
Tomorrow, The US High Speed Rail Association opens its three-day Surface Transportation & High Speed Rail Summit at Alion Conference Center. Hot topics: the pros and cons of the massive Surface Transportation Bill being debated in Congress; the benefits of bringing high-speed rail to America; and potential solutions via public-private partnerships. House Transportation Chair John Mica, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood will keynote. Above LaHood and Thomas Hart (USHSRA VP and director of the law firm Quarles and Brady's DC office) at the organization's NYC conference. It starts in one day, which gives you time to joyride on Amtrak (joy crawl?) and remind yourself why you're going to the conference in the first place. Click here for more info.

From Cooking to Charity
Chef Art Smith

We caught up with Oprah's former chef Art Smith last week about the restaurant he just opened with Lady Gaga's parents and other new ventures. (Read about it in Dining Bisnow.) The celebrity chef also filled us in about his charity Common Threads, which teaches low income kids to cook healthy affordable meals. Art started the organization with $20K, and it has since grown to $3 to $4 million with programs in four states. Common Threads is also opening an office in New York City and will celebrate its 10 year anniversary this year. While Art is busy running five restaurants (and counting), executive director Linda Novick O'Keefe oversees the day to day operations. He tells us he hired her away from her pharmaceutical advertising job the first day he met her. "Linda is truly the orchestrator," he says. "I inspired it. I don't have to manage it."

Send news and story ideas to reporter Jessica Sidman, jessica@bisnow.com.
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