Editor's note: This is Dr. Saboe's introductory column for DC.
I became the paid lobbyist for the Oregon Chiropractic Association in 2005 and it has made all the difference here in Oregon.In 2005, just as the Oregon legislative session was starting, we were forced to terminate yet another lay lobbyist – "lay" meaning a non-chiropractor; the usual professional lobbyist / lobbying firm with multiple clients. The OCA Executive Board asked if I would take the position as paid lobbyist. I learned the process quickly ... and you or a colleague in your state can do so as well. Let's discuss the benefits of serving as a chiropractic lobbyist and the first grassroots steps you can take to connect with legislators and other key stakeholders.
Why Lobby for Chiropractic?
Every state association should consider hiring a chiropractor as their paid lobbyist. Why? Because no lay lobbyist will ever have a chiropractor's understanding of or passion for our profession's issues. You do not have to lobby at your Capitol 24/7 to be much more effective than a lay professional lobbyist.
For example, I still see patients three days a week and I am paid $75,000 per year plus expenses to lobby for the OCA. This may seem like very little to some and more to others, but it should be viewed as "lost practice income replacement," rather than a salary, because that is what it is. This is also the amount we had paid lay lobbyists for decades – with very little to show for it.
More importantly, it's not just about the money; you will absolutely love advocating for your colleagues, patients and our wonderful profession. It is extremely interesting work, fun, rewarding, and the sense of accomplishment and satisfaction is priceless. Also very important is that these lobbying funds have allowed me to sit on a myriad of strategic committees, subcommittees, advisory groups, work groups, and commissions, whose work product has benefited and continues to benefit the chiropractic profession here in Oregon. You will want to do the same in your state. The goal of this column is to reveal all I have learned along the way and explain how these political strategies can absolutely be implemented in your state, allowing you to be more successful interacting with your state legislature.
Getting Involved: Your First Steps Toward Grassroots Participation
Grassroots work is the great equalizer when it comes to going against the big lobbyists and their big money, such as the pharmaceutical industry, insurance companies, managed care or organizations, hospital and medical associations, large corporations, etc., whose money and resources we can never match. Building personal relationships with key elected officials and candidates early on is key.
In my opinion, hosting a fund-raiser event for a key legislator or candidate in their private home is the quickest and single most effective way to build a personal relationship with that legislator or candidate. Something happens to people when you invite them into your private home. They are transformed in a way that nothing else does. It establishes a personal connection with that legislator or candidate; a connection that will last the balance of their political career.
The cost of hosting such an event will range from a low of $150 to high of $500, depending on the size of the event, meaning the number of expected attendees. In Oregon, our political action committee (PAC) funds will reimburse the doctor / host for the cost of hosting a function for a key legislator or candidate. Simple appetizers and beverages purchased at a local Costco or similar store will save a tremendous amount of money versus hiring a professional caterer.
Invite other VIP guests to your event, such as the speaker of the House, Senate president or majority leader, provided they are of the same party whose job it is to keep their particular party in power. This will allow you to build personal relationships with these key individuals as well.
If your event is for a state representative or assemblyman / assemblywoman, invite the senator of their district. If your event is for your senator, invite the two representatives or assemblymen / assemblywomen to attend as VIPs. I also invite the local party chairman or chairwoman and the city mayor. List these VIPs on your invitations and announce them at your event, making sure introductions are done in the proper order. As the host, you should introduce the VIP of least importance (for example, the mayor), who in turn would introduce the state representative, who would introduce the speaker of the House, who would introduce the guest of honor.
Do not rely on paper invitations alone as host; you must call your colleagues, gaining their commitment for attendance and for a specific contribution amount. Take the lead when it comes to contributions; ask your colleagues if they will donate a specific dollar amount, working down from there if needed, and ask that they send the check to you ahead of the event.
Don't just call colleagues blindly, at least not initially. Your time is valuable; limit your initial outreach to colleagues you know will step up for the profession.
My wife and I have hosted functions for state representatives, senators, and our secretary of state when she first ran for office. Without exception, every one of them recalls the beautiful functions we hosted, resulting in that personal connection and friendship nothing else quite duplicates. You can build the same connections in your state. In my next column, I will continue our discussion on grassroots activities; they truly can be the great equalizer.
Click here for more information about Vern Saboe Jr., DC, DACAN, FICC, DABFP.