In-district meetings: all politics is local
U.S. Congressman Tip O’Neill is credited with coining the phrase “all politics is local” back in his days as House speaker (1977-1987). What O’Neill meant by the phrase was that a politician, in order to be successful, had to intimately understand and meet the needs of his/her constituents. And, he probably measured success by a single criteria – re-election – and by that standard, his 34 years in the House of Representatives epitomizes success!
During the August congressional recess, OGF took this advice to heart as we traveled to Canton, Marietta and Zanesville to meet in the offices of three newly-elected congressmen: Representatives Gibbs, Johnson and Renacci. Local foundation leaders accompanied OGF staff to the meetings, telling the stories of their foundations and providing a face and context to the data OGF presented on the number of foundations, assets and grants in each congressional district.
One of the goals of the meetings was to build support for HR 2502, the Public Good IRA Charitable Rollover Act of 2011. Current law allows people to donate assets from their IRAs to qualified charities without tax consequences but it expires this year. We explained the value the provision has had since its first creation in 2006 – not only for community foundations but for other nonprofits – and received their promises to consider signing on. Indeed, one staffer characterized the sign-on as a “no-brainer” for her boss.
These meetings are important not only for gaining sponsors for the IRA bill, but also for building relationships with these elected officials who, ultimately, control the operations and very livelihood of foundations and other nonprofits. It’s good to make friends before you need them – which may not be too far off, as the congress begins to consider changes to tax incentives for charitable contributions. This relationship-building will continue through the year, not only with these new members but also with the rest of Ohio’s delegation and with both U.S. senators, as OGF continues to meet its mission of being the voice for organized philanthropy in Ohio.
Claudia Y.W. Herrold