I learned some VERY valuable lessons at this year’s ACA International Washington D.C. Fly-in event. And believe it or not, the top thing I learned came from two very busy receptionists.
First: I learned every contact counts! While waiting for my scheduled meeting with Senator Hatch’s staff, I watched his two receptionists take close to 100 calls from constituents giving input on issues. I learned they keep a tally of every caller’s opinions and provide the Senator with updates during their office briefings every morning.
Now, I was already a big advocate of letter-writing, phone calls and other lobbying activities, but watching the receptionists tally phone call feedback reinforced the fact that EVERY call or contact counts. The more I participate in these types of activities the more I understand we need to be continually involved.
Our elected officials are literally overloaded with issues and concerns from their constituents. Washington D.C. is extremely busy with literally hundreds of associations lobbying their representatives. Our message and concerns will quickly be forgotten if we aren’t visiting their offices, calling them on the phone or writing them letters. We each need to do whatever we can to continually share the message!
Second: I learned that at least two FTC directors understand our industry. Our group had approximately 90 scheduled meetings on the Hill with Congressmen and Senators. During our initial briefing at the ACA’s D.C. office, Chuck Harwood, Acting Director for the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection and Chris Koegel, Assistant Director for the FTC Division of Financial Practices, bravely visited our group. Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect from them. I was extremely surprised and pleased with their directness and honesty about our concerns. I could be wrong, but it appears Mr. Harwood and Mr. Koegel understand our industry and how some of the archaic regulations and current lawsuits unfairly restrict our abilities. Only time will tell if the FTC’s actions follow their words. Keep your fingers crossed!
Third: I learned the Representatives I visited are all about being “fair.” I had three very good meetings with my Representatives or their staff members. Our conversations focused on this year’s fly-in priority topics: the FDCPA’s leaving a message catch-22, the TCPA’s prohibition of using dialing technology to contact cell phones, and the CFPB’s supervision of Larger Market Participants and the soon to be released consumer complaint database.
Congressman Matheson left a sub-committee meeting to talk with me. I found him very engaging and willing to listen. He asked pertinent questions that indicated he understood our plight. I had very similar experiences meeting with staff members for Senator Mike Lee and Senator Orrin Hatch. (I also briefly discussed our issues with Senator Lee.)
Interestingly, all three offices used the term “fair” in our discussions. They said it seemed only “fair” the confusion around the FDCPA should be resolved. And all agreed it seemed reasonable to contact cell phone numbers using modern technology especially since the individual knowingly entered into a legal debt.
Personally, this was my most successful fly-in event discussing the issues with my Representatives. I’m very pleased with ACA and their team of experts. They are doing a great job fighting for our issues. Thanks ACA, and keep it up! I’m anxious to hear about other fly-in participants’ experiences. What are YOUR top 3 lessons learned?