It is hard to fathom after the drama-filled elections in 2020 that we are embarking on yet another election cycle. All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are up this November, as is a third of the U.S. Senate. Outreach from campaign fundraisers has been on a furious clip for months in advance of the midterms, and the Hardwood Federation team has been busy attending political giving events for members of Congress in both parties who have shown their support for our sector.
Throughout most of 2021 and a considerable portion of the previous year, all of these fundraising events were held virtually. While still effective, the virtual interactions left a little to be desired, and now that we are back doing in-person events, it is painfully evident what we were missing. There is just no substitute for actually being face-to-face with a member of Congress and being able to tell our story and raise policy issues that we support and those for which we have concerns. And not only are the members themselves present at these functions, but typically, their chief of staff or point person for our issues is on hand, so we are able to connect with these staff members for follow-up discussions. In addition, these events provide excellent networking opportunities.
Often, we coordinate with other forest product industry associations and our allies in the forestry space in hosting members of Congress, which enables us to information share and strategize with our colleagues about policy issues of mutual interest. And there are other events where the Hardwood Federation is the only forest product industry representative in the room, which enables us to glean insights on what companies and trade associations representing other sectors are advocating and, again, provides opportunities for us to network. In Washington, you never know where a random connection may prove valuable down the road, and so these connections with other industries and players are so meaningful.
What enables us to be at the table for these functions? The Hardwood Federation Political Action Committee (HFPAC), which has enjoyed strong support from NWFA members over the years. An expression that has perhaps been overused, but continues to be relevant today, is that if you are not at the table, you are on the menu. HFPAC is one of the most essential tools we use in our efforts to be “in the room where it happens” and make our voices heard in Washington.
As you know, HFPAC is funded by personal contributions, not company dollars, from hardwood industry leaders. The Federation team is keenly aware of the sacrifice attached to dedicating personal dollars to the HFPAC. Those funds could be used to pay off a credit card bill, do home repairs, or take that long-overdue vacation. Because of this, we are very judicious about which members of Congress we choose to support to ensure that our contributions are impactful.
The HFPAC Board selects candidates for support based on the following criteria:
- Champion for issues that matter most to the hardwood industry
- Voting record on key issues to the hardwood industry
- Holds or has the potential to hold a leadership position in the U.S. Senate or U.S. House
- Position on committees relevant to the hardwood industry
- Potential to be elected and financial need
- Hardwood companies located in the elected official’s or candidate’s voting district or state
To further assist us in the decision-making process, we created a new “scorecard” last year to assess voting records of all members of Congress based on pending legislation or amendments that have come up for a vote. Both our existing criteria and our new scorecard are important tools that help us decide where to spend precious HFPAC dollars.
While funding for the HFPAC remains down compared to previous years due to lingering effects of the pandemic, we were able to give to 42 members of Congress in 2021. The group is an excellent cross-section of members from every region of the country, men and women, democrat and republican.
One of our other primary filters is which committees a member of Congress sits on and whether they are in leadership on those panels. To that end, we attended events for both the chair and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee – Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and John Boozman (R-AR), respectively – as that panel is of paramount importance to the hardwood industry, particularly as Congress turns its attention to begin writing a new Farm Bill later this year. Likewise, we gave to Representatives David Scott (D-GA) and G.T. Thompson (R-PA), who hold identical positions on the House Agriculture Committee. And we have participated in several events for Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), who chairs the House Agriculture Committee’s Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee – a panel that will hold the pen on reauthorizing key Farm Bill programs of interest to the hardwood industry.
In addition to contributing to members of key Congressional committees, we have given to members of leadership in both parties as well as members of the Problem Solvers Caucus – a group of 58 House members evenly divided between democrats and republicans that strive to find consensus on critical issues confronting our nation.
The Hardwood Federation Political Action Committee (HFPAC) has enjoyed strong support from NWFA members over the years. An expression that has perhaps been overused but continues to be relevant today is that if you are not at the table, you are on the menu. HFPAC is one of the most essential tools we use in our efforts to be “in the room where it happens” and make our voices heard in Washington.
Between the Hardwood team’s boots on the ground here in Washington, the HFPAC, our considerable grassroots lobbying capability, and the efforts of you, our NWFA members, we look forward to another successful year ahead in our federal advocacy efforts on behalf of the hardwood sector. We thank you for your continued support and look forward to working with you for the remainder of 2022 to move the ball down the field on policies that help our industry and defend against those that threaten to set us back.
Dana Lee Cole is the executive director at the Hardwood Federation, a Washington, D.C.-based hardwood industry trade association that represents thousands of hardwood businesses in every state in the United States and acts as the industry advocacy voice on Capitol Hill. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.