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Got a Story Idea? . Events
Association Bisnow
   
February 26, 2008
 
       
 

Roundtable
with

Star CEOs


 

Indulging our love of both gab and food, we invited three of the biggest deals in association land to join us for lunch last week to air hot current issues:  Red Cavaney, CEO of the American Petroleum Institute; David Israelite, CEO of the National Music Publishers Association; and Jonathan Kempner, CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. We sat them down over some fine fare at McCormick & Schmick's (we recommend the salmon served on a cedar plank).

 
 

David, Jonathan, and Red made for a great panel, but we felt a certain touch was missing—great Bisnow sponsors, of course, each of whom is one of their firm's top association gurus:  Russell Reynolds' Denise Grant, Arent Fox's Deanne Ottaviano, and Staubach's Ellen Herman.

Our own Mark Bisnow played moderator.

Bisnow:

What's the climate like now for your work on the Hill?

   
David:

I'm finding it increasingly hard to legislate in this environment, with the breakdown in bi-partisanship. I came in expecting to spend a majority of my time with Congress and legislation, but I'm spending more of my time on litigation for my members.

   
Bisnow:

Have you had to shift resources to do that?

   
David:

Yes, since I came onboard we've reduced lobbying and increased both in-house and outside counseling. We're becoming more of a legal-based trade association

   
Bisnow: Are other associations moving the same way?
   
Red:

I agree with David that it's hard to get things done legislatively, which is making the regulatory process much more complex, confusing, and frustrating.

   
Deanne: The API has a long history of litigating in the administrative context, and getting excellent results.  It's a very complicated area. 
 
 
Jonathan:

Our model is different. We play a support role on the litigation side, but most of our advocacy resources are in the legislative realm. We're under such attack that we have to stay there.  There also aren't a lot of class actions in our industry. So a Countrywide or Wells Fargo will be defending themselves individually, and we'll give them support materials.  But we don't lead.

   
Bisnow:

Does the presidential campaign have an impact on your work?

   
Red:

It increases the intensity, but the rubber doesn't meet the road until you have a nominee or you go the convention to work on a national platform.  It also depends on where you are on the pecking order.  We spend a lot of time going to both parties, but in the year 2000 energy wasn't on the charts.  Nobody wanted to talk to us.  After the election, the Northeast had one of its greatest freezes ever, with blocked roads and low heating oil supply.  The issue popped up and has been there ever since.  So you just have to be ready.

   
David: 

We've joined with a group called the Copyright Alliance.  It includes makers of music, movies, books, software, video games.  We've approached all of the presidential campaigns to get position statements supporting the protection of intellectual property.  It can be hard to get attention for these issues, which aren't normally featured in presidential campaigns, but by joining together we've had some success.  Actually, the candidates tend to get interested when they want to use a particular song at their rallies.

   
Bisnow:

Ah, so that's when you hear from them.

   
David:

It came up the other day. The lead member of Boston complained that Mike Huckabee was using "More than a Feeling" and didn't want him to play it anymore.

 
 
Bisnow:

Mortgages have been getting attention in the primaries, too.

   
Jonathan:

We're in the bull's eye of the rhetoric, especially on the Democratic side.  There's a lot of demagoguery being offered, and we don't take it straight on.  If there's a gross inaccuracy, we might be compelled to correct it.  But at this juncture we can't have a press release every day saying that Hillary or Barack got something wrong.

   
Bisnow:

That sounds like a voice of experience.  But do you have members who get more charged up about what they hear on TV?

   
Jonathan:

We're so engrossed defending other areas now that the rhetoric from a couple of candidates isn't the highest priority.  It's really a matter of allocating your resources.  All of us will tell you that's our biggest challenge.

   
Red:

Just like you run a business, you have to have a plan with your leadership, you have to have priorities.  If you jumped through hoops every time somebody wanted you to react, you'd be out of money by mid-year.

 
 
Staubach
 
Sports Club/LA
 
Reed Smith
 
Arent Fox
 
Cardinal Bank
 
Washingtonian
 
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