ASAE President & CEO John H. Graham IV, CAE submitted a “letter to the editor” to The Washington Post on Tuesday in response to a legally incorrect and misleading editorial published by the paper in the Sunday Business section on December 18.
The editorial, entitled “Starve the Beast. End the Stalemate,” was written by columnist Steve Pearlstein in response to the Congressional inaction over the budget and year-end tax extenders. In the column, Pearlstein blames Americans for giving to “special interest” organizations that help cause this inaction and suggests the remedy is to stop giving to these organizations: “The next time anyone calls you for a campaign contribution or tries to bill you for next year’s association dues…. Do yourself and all the rest of us a favor: Just say no.” He equates paying association dues with making a political contribution and decries these payments as the cause of the political mess in Washington.
In response, Graham noted a few legal and logical points in the submitted letter, which can be seen here. First, he notes that dues payments to an association cannot be used as a federal campaign contribution and any money an association may give to a federal candidate through its political action committee is expressly raised separately from dues. In addition, he notes that equating professional associations with political groups misunderstands the role of associations in society: “Associations are communities where people go to learn more and become better at their chosen profession, which benefits society at large. Who does not want their doctors to know the latest surgical techniques or their children’s teachers to know the best teaching methods?”
The letter is an edited version of a longer op-ed that ASAE submitted to the Post (which can be seen here). Graham points out the ASAE and associations are already fighting back against this misunderstanding of the role of associations through the Power of A campaign: “This interactive campaign is designed to show how associations are improving society and driving economic recovery every day at all levels of society, from the local to international level. I would invite all of your readers to visit www.thepowerofa.org to see how associations are really improving this country.”