It’s Slow, Frustrating, But Talking to Congress Works

Last month we took a group of family business members, CEOs of family business centers, and directors of family offices to Capitol Hill. In all we conducted 33 meetings in offices of legislators from California to Virginia and we had success in getting our messages across.

A lot of preparatory work went into these visits, held June 14 and 15, because talking to Congress people and their staffs is often equal parts art and fact.

Before the meetings we gathered our family business executives in a room with real advocacy pros, from tax experts to messaging experts, like Frank Luntz, and we discussed how to listen and speak with our representatives.

Meetings with legislators, either in their districts or in DC, are so important because well, simply, Congress makes the laws. It’s all we have. Where else can we go to make change?

It’s a tired trope, but in this country if you don’t voice your opinion and explain your concerns, you will probably not like the outcome, or the laws passed. It’s the squeaky wheel theory at play. And it works.

Looking back, the one thing that stood out for me was legislators do want to hear from you. Yes, really, they do. And if you have a reasonably strong story, they will listen.

When I first started to meet with Members of Congress in 1995, the estate tax exemption was $650,000 and the estate tax rate was 55%.  It has taken over two decades of such in-person meetings to create change. 

Today, the lifetime exemption is now $12 million, and the tax rate is 40%.  That’s progress, but only because people let their voices be heard.

The actions are simple. Call, email, attend a town hall meeting, or a fundraiser and let them know what you care about. It does not matter what the issue is. If it is dear to your heart and business, let them know. The process may seem slow and can be frustrating, and it is, but it does ultimately work.

Serious and severe tax and economic proposals are being discussed by Congress every day. My time last month on The Hill once again made it clear that you can make a difference if you try, if we all try.

Family Enterprise USA advocates for American Family business. We help family businesses communicate their challenges and contributions to American economic freedom to Legislators. We represent all American family businesses; not just specific industries and provide research to enhance the opportunity for success. We help family businesses continue to establish their unique business legacy. Family Enterprise USA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization.. Family foundations can donate.

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