Distributors To Launch Industry Lobbying Group

A pair of distributors based in Washington, D.C. is creating a lobbying group to advocate for the industry. Named PromoVoice, the organization will focus on engaging the federal government and having representation at the U.S. Capitol. “If the government doesn’t know who we are, then they are crafting and discussing legislation all the time without keeping our interests in mind,” says Josh Frey, founder of On Sale Promos and The Swag Coach and one of two industry people spearheading the effort.

To launch the group, Frey and Randy LeFaivre have partnered with Steptoe & Johnson, an international law firm with a public policy practice and extensive lobbying experience. The firm is helping to create a charter and craft the framework for the organization and will be PromoVoice’s representation at the Capitol.

PromoVoice will target key issues which it believes will have severe ramifications on the industry. Foremost among them is a reinterpretation of the 1099 tax classification that governs independent contractors. The group says that the Labor Department’s new guidance could force distributors to count salespeople as full employees, and drive costs up about 10% per distributorship. “It’s going to affect our livelihood and our members in this industry. Our elected officials should understand that,” says LeFaivre, the president of Metrologo (asi/268938). “And we feel to make that happen, our industry needs to have boots on the ground in D.C. and needs to be talking to Congress every day.”

Other issues on the group’s agenda include tax code reforms that would reduce advertising write offs from 100% to 50%. “This provision hits the people in the business of advertising right in their pocket every day,” says Douglas Kantor, a partner at Steptoe who will work with PromoVoice. Frey and LeFaivre also have concerns that the executive order penned by President Barack Obama to reduce spending on “extraneous promotional items” will continue under his successor after this year’s election.

Frey and LeFaivre say that response from industry members has been overwhelmingly positive, and that the two have had encouraging conversations with several of the industry’s Top 40 suppliers. PromoVoice will be funded by membership dues, and the group’s goal is to create an affordable entry level fee for any distributor or supplier to join. While there is no specific timeline for the launch of PromoVoice, the group says it is looking to move quickly with an eye toward exerting its influence for this year’s elections.

Beyond that, however, the organization’s goal is to take a proactive approach in educating and representing the industry. “Lobbying is an ongoing effort,” says Frey. “It’s not just about reacting to legislation. It’s about educating Congress on industries and what people do.” Kantor and Lisa Mortier, a director in Steptoe’s Government Affairs & Public Policy group, say that members of Congress want to do the right thing and know how their decisions affect their constituents, but simply lack the information for every relevant industry. In addition, the group wants to change the existing perceptions of advertising. “Unfortunately I think there a lot of negative attitudes in Congress to marketing and advertising,” Kantor says. “Too many fail to recognize the economic value and importance of marketing and advertising in the economy.”