The toy industry has joined the National Association of Realtors, the National Auto Dealers Association, the American Bankers Association and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in forming its first political action committee (PAC). Political action committees allow industries to have an impact on legislation by making donations, and thereby having clout, with congress. The toy industry learned that lesson the hard way. Three years ago, when the toy industry went to Congress to lobby about safety legislation, the message we got back was a loud and clear: “Where have you been?” In order to learn more about our new TOYPAC I spoke with Executive Vice President, External Affairs Ed Desmond
Ed Desmond joined the Toy Industry Association in October 2008 from the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), where he was Senior Vice President, Government Affairs. Headquartered in Washington, DC, Mr. Desmond's primary responsibility is to be the consistent voice and representative of the toy industry in the legislative and regulatory arenas. He organizes and oversees the TIA’s ongoing efforts to address legislative challenges at the state level, utilizing the resources of TIA’s seasoned Government Affairs staff as well as outside counsel.
Richard: Many readers may be unfamiliar with “political action committees” (also called “PACs”), what they do and why they need to exist. So, the first question is: “What exactly is a PAC?”
Ed: One common way organizations become more engaged is to create a political action committee, or PAC. While corporations (profit or nonprofit), labor organizations and incorporated membership organizations are prohibited from making direct contributions to candidates in connection with federal elections, such organizations, like TIA, may operate a PAC. The Committee collects contributions from individuals in the toy industry and aggregates the money to make contributions and expenditures to legislator's reelection campaigns. Contributions are used for donations from TOYPAC to state and federal candidates, and are delivered to candidates on behalf of the toy industry.
Richard: Why does the toy industry need a PAC?
Ed: The political and legislative environment has changed for our industry in recent years and we must continue to find new ways to engage policymakers and increase our advocacy efforts at the state and federal level. There is an ongoing need to establish and maintain a strong, concerned and active political voice on behalf of the toy industry. Contributions made through TOYPAC will speak for the entire industry and will provide TIA with another advocacy tool by which to advance our industry's key messages to legislators.
Richard: Will TOYPAC favor one political party over the other?
Ed: No. Our industry’s issues don't align with one political party or the other. As such, our advocacy efforts are not partisan and nor will TOYPAC contributions. TOYPAC contributions to legislators will be determined by a number of factors and with input and oversight by TIA members and will be based on what is in the best interest of the industry, not on whether a legislator is a Republican or Democrat.
Richard: Can you give us some examples of what TOYPAC will do?
Ed: First, TOYPAC will seek to raise funds from voluntary contributions from individuals in the toy industry. TOYPAC's Board will next identify state and federal candidates to whom TOYPAC contributions will be made. Lastly, TIA government affairs staff and member company representatives will attend events with the selected legislators to whom contributions have been made.
Richard: How can members of the toy industry get involved with TOYPAC?
Ed: Federal election law allows selected individuals within a company to contribute to TOYPAC. However, the same election laws require the individual to grant his or her “prior approval” before being asked to make a voluntary contribution (granting "prior approval" is done by filling out a very brief form).
Richard: How can members of the toy industry learn more or get their questions answered?