Legislative Visits & Events
There are a number of events both industry driven and legislator sponsored that are available to help generate exposure for, and educate decision makers about, the automotive aftermarket industry. Continued and consistent communication with your elected officials goes a long way toward helping advocate for the industry and issues your organization may be tracking. As with all events, a follow up thank you letter or note is highly recommended. Sample invitations and thank you letters are below for reference.
Please remember that each state has their own laws governing political giving including reporting requirements relating to political giving, campaign contributions (PAC’s), lobbying and gift limits, to name a few. It is important that you check your state’s laws prior to conducting any type of political giving including, gifts to legislators, regulators and their staffs, campaign and/or political contributions, and lobbying.
In addition, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has guidelines for notifying association members about lobbying activities of tax exempt organizations on an annual basis. Work with your attorney or legislative advocate to be certain you are following all current laws and disclosure requirements.
Below is a list of common events for your consideration:
Capitol visits are pre-set meetings with legislators that represent the visiting constituent (member/customer). These visits are typically held in the legislator’s state capitol office. Capitol visits can either be a “meet and greet” where attendees educate legislators about their industry or organization or can be specific in nature where attendees are there to “advocate” for a particular bill or issue. In either case, legislators meet with hundreds of groups, so they may not be familiar with the specific issue you are tracking or the group you are representing. Be prepared with background and leave behind materials or packets. You will not always get to meet with the legislator face to face, so take meetings with legislative staff when available. (See Collateral Materials Section of this website)
General Purpose -- Capitol general purpose visits are usually held when you want to influence legislation pending before your state legislature or discuss an issue that is being debated in your state Capitol. Make sure to present your case clearly: describe what your industry does, how the legislation will positively or negatively affect you and the consumer (use data if you have it to back up what you say), be specific about what you want from the legislator and say thank you for your time.
In-District Legislative Meetings/Facility Tours (including Lunch/Dinner meetings with legislators)
In-district legislative meetings and facility tours are also pre-set meetings with legislators but these visits are conducted in the district of the target legislator. Typically these meetings involve a group of industry participants (who are constituents of the target legislator) and are held in an industry business or legislator’s district office. Similar to capitol visits, the purpose may be either “meet and greet” where attendees educate legislators about their industry or organization or can be specific in nature where attendees are there to “advocate” for a particular bill or issue. Like capitol visits, the visiting group of constituents should be well prepared for the visit and bring leave behind materials.
General Purpose -- In-District legislative visits, facility tours or lunch/dinner meetings are most beneficial when you would like to sit down in a personal setting away from the state capitol environment to get to know the legislator on a more personal level. Additionally, these meetings are good for acquainting legislators with the aftermarket industry on a more direct level including meeting their constituents in their place of business.
Legislative or capitol days provide members/customers with an opportunity to learn how the legislative process works, what critical legislative issues are facing the industry and how members/customers can personally influence the outcome of key bills and issues affecting your organization, company or industry. These events are typically a full day, occur in the state capitol of your state and may include personal pre-set meetings with legislators and their staffs, speakers, breakfast/luncheons and social interaction opportunities.
General Purpose – Capitol days are typically held to showcase the strength and size of the industry and are often times organized around a specific issue or piece of legislation the industry is involved with.
Legislative Town Hall or District Events
Town hall meetings are informal meetings scheduled by the legislator and open to constituents from his/her district. These meetings are typically held to create better communication between legislators and their constituents and often provide constituents with an opportunity to discuss matters with their elected official. Listings of town hall and other legislator sponsored events may be found by visiting that legislator’s web site.
Legislators hold district events from time to time including office visits, receptions, tours, BBQ’s, etc. to better acquaint themselves with their district surroundings and constituents. Typically legislators list these events on their web sites or you may contact your legislator’s office and asked to be placed on a list to be contacted about future events.
General Purpose -- Typically constituents attend legislator sponsored district events to show their support for their lawmaker and his/her position on important issues. Oftentimes, constituents attend these events and provide political contributions to the lawmaker.
Industry Appreciation Events (For Customers/Members)
(Including BBQ’s/Annual Meetings, etc.)
If your organization or company is hosting a meeting or event for customers or members including company BBQ’s, customer appreciation events, annual meetings, etc. consider inviting your elected official as a guest or speaker. This will help build rapport with your local official, help solidify a relationship and continue outreach and education of the industry.
General Purpose -- Inviting your legislator to your place of business for a company BBQ or association activity is a good way to better acquaint your organization and the aftermarket industry with that legislator away from the state capitol environment. Typically, these type of events are informal and provide opportunities for legislators to get to know their constituents and constituent businesses on a more personal level.
In many states, attendance at your event may constitute a reportable gift. Please be sure to check state regulations regarding reporting of gifts to elected officials.
Tips for Contacting Legislators about Capitol and District Constituent Visits