Government Relations Update, 4/19/2010

by

Kristi Smith Wyatt, Chamber Interim President and Senior Vice President, Government Relations & Policy Development

Chamber Advocacy Mission to Washington D.C.

Greetings, The Chamber has just returned from its Washington D.C. Fly-in.  Select Kansas City business leaders joined our trip.  Below is a list of attendees:

Parris Communications – Mr. Jeremy Anderson, Vice President of Public Affairs                                     

Truman Medical Centers – Mr. John Bluford, President & Chief Executive Officer

CVR Energy, Inc. – Ms. Gina Bowman, Vice President, Government Relations

Burns & McDonnell – Mr. Ronald Coker, Associate Vice President

Athletic & Rehabilitation Center – Mr. Matthew Condon, President

UMB Bank, n.a. – Mr. Peter deSilva, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer

Kansas City Area Life Sciences Institute, Inc. – Mr. Dan Getman, President

Midwest Research Institute-Dr. Michael Helmstetter, President & Chief Executive Officer

Hallmark Cards, Inc. – Ms. Barbara Koirtyohann, Public Affairs Director

Husch Blackwell Sanders – Mr. Luther Washington, Chamber Federal Affairs Consultant

Polsinelli Shughart – Mr. Peter Levi, Attorney at Law

City of Kansas City, Missouri – The Honorable Jan Marcason, City Council Member

The University of Kansas Medical Center – Dr. Marcia Nielsen, Vice Chancellor of Public Policy & Planning

Kansas City Power and Light – Mr. Paul Snider, Public Affairs

Kansas Bioscience Authority – Mr. Tom Thornton, Chief Executive Officer

Kansas Bioscience Authority– Ms. Lindsay Holwick, Director of Special Projects

Metropolitan Medical Society of Greater Kansas City – Ms. Jill Watson, Executive Director

Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce – Ms. Kristi Smith Wyatt, Interim President and SVP for Government Relations and Policy Development

Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce – Ms. Cathy Bennett, Director, Government    Relations & Policy Development

Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce – Ms. Christine Murray, Director, Government Relations & Policy Development, Animal Health Corridor

Day 1: April 13

We arrived in D.C. via an afternoon flight which happened to be full of Chamber friends such as U.S. Congressman Jerry Moran (KS), U.S. Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (KS), U.S. Congressman Sam Graves (MO), and U.S. Congressman Ike Skelton (MO). 

Once on the ground in D.C. and after taking in the breathtaking cherry blossom view all around us, the group went to the U.S. Capitol for a reception in the historic Mansfield Room on the Senate side with Kansas and Missouri Congressional members and staffers sponsored by Polsinelli Shughart and the Kansas Bioscience Authority.  The event was a great success with around 90 guests in attendance. 

Accommodations were at The Phoenix Park Hotel.  This hotel is on the Senate side of the Hill and across the street from the postal museum.  One of my favorite hangouts from my days as a D.C. staffer, The Dubliner, is located in the hotel.  This Irish pub has been serving Washington insiders for 35 years.  Pete Levi with Polsinelli Shughart is especially fond of The Dubliner. 

As an aside, I learned while in D.C. that Chamber Board member, Roshann Parris of Parris Communications,  is accompanying First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden on their trip to Haiti.  Roshann sent us some awesome pictures.  In Politico, we learned both Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden were both sporting Converse All-Star tennis shoes on the trip. 

Day 2: April 14

Wednesday morning a breakfast was held at the Hay-Adams Hotel and featured a panel of DC lobbyists who gave the “lay of the land” on issues like energy, health care, and transportation/infrastructure.  Our guests included Rick Pollack (American Hospital Association), Brent Franzel (energy industry lobbyist), and Anita Estell (City of KCMO lobbyist and Shareholder, Polsinelli Shughart).

Rick Pollack provided us with a comprehensive overview of the health care reform plan.  Thanks to John Bluford of Truman Medical Centers for arranging Pollack to be with us.  Pollack stated five things to watch that could be transformational about the health care bill:

1)      Move away from fee for services

2)      Quality and patient safety – emphasis moving to value based

3)      Begin looking at spending variations throughout the country

4)      Increased transparency

5)      Electronic medical records

In addition, Pollack stated it is clear “Democrats own health care,” and any problems that arise will be blamed on the Democrats.  (As an aside, Richard Nixon in 1971 proposed employer mandates, so some of these ideas are not exactly new).   Clearly, the future for the health care plan is not clear – Republicans want repeal but, obviously, as long as President Obama is in office he would veto any repeal.   Coverage begins in 2014. 

The group went to the House Visitors Center for meetings with Kansas and Missouri Congressional members including Congressman Emanuel Cleaver (MO), Congressman Sam Graves (MO), and Congressman Dennis Moore (KS).  This was followed up with a very insightful lunch with three of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s top staffers: Jamie Lizarraga, Director of Member Services; Jerry Hartz, Director of Floor Operations; and Cheryl Parker Rose, Senior Advisor Intergovernmental Affairs.  These Pelosi staffers discussed the March Jobs Report, the Speaker’s commitment to R & D, and the diverse energy needs of the nation’s regions.  That afternoon we had a chance to chat with Congressman Todd Tiahart (KS), Senator Claire McCaskill (MO), Senator Christopher “Kit” Bond (MO), Senator Pat Roberts (KS), Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins (KS), Congressman Jerry Moran (KS), and Ed Silverman, Chief of Staff for the Senate Banking Committee.  Wow! It was a whirlwind afternoon!

Following an historical tour of the White House led by Congressman Sam Graves (MO), a casual dinner was held at Johnny’s Half-Shell, a spiffy, newish restaurant where La Colline was formerly located.  With the Capitol dome in the background, we discussed the upcoming primary elections and the scrumptious crab cakes and scallops. 

Day 3: April 15

Thursday morning we met with two principals of the nation’s top public opinion survey organizations,  Christopher Klose of LKK Partners and Alex Bratty of Public Opinion Strategies. 

After breakfast, we had the pleasure of getting to speak with Senator Sam Brownback (KS).  Topics of discussion included energy, reviving the Kansas economy, and international relations. 

The final session of the trip was hosted by the Fleishman Hillard D.C. office in which Bill Black, Chair of International Public Affairs, discussed with us challenging issues and a changing dynamics for lobbying. 

The group arrived back at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday evening.  A productive trip. 

What we learned:

1.      Some version of financial reform is likely to pass

2.      Considered the worst political climate in memory

3.      Cap and trade probably is dead for the session

4.      Government is hard to reign in—i.e. Dept. of Defense has 25,000 auditors

5.      Republicans are excited for the fall election.  They are expecting to pick up a minimum of 30 seats in the House.

6.      Future of technology will have dramatic effect on advocacy—have any fact available on our handhelds. 

And much, much more…..

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