For the first time in almost 24 years, as of the end of April I’ll not have any official role with the National Association of RV Parks & Campgrounds (ARVC). In late March, ARVC announced that it has engaged a “powerhouse” law firm to handle the association’s government relations activities on the national level. The firm replaces yours truly and my longtime associate, Aubrey King, as ARVC’s Washington public affairs team. Aubrey and I have represented ARVC since 1996 during my tenure as President of ARVC and then since 2002 when I left ARVC and continued to represent the association together with Aubrey.
We will both miss the relationship with the ARVC staff and leadership and wish Jeff Sims, ARVC’s new director of membership and government relations, continued success.
Aubrey and I did submit a proposal to ARVC in response to their RFP and hoped to continue to work with ARVC, but it was not possible to compete with two strong decision-making factors. First, ARVC leadership and President Paul Bambei are committed to changing the association to hopefully better serve the needs of the members. Coming on the heels of several recent years of turmoil in the association that has led to some loss of enthusiasm, support and interest in ARVC, change, if for the better, is probably necessary to get ARVC back on track as an important player in the park industry.
The second competitive factor in ARVC’s decision was that Aubrey and I simply cannot compete with a law firm with 1,000 lawyers and six offices. As a small two-person shop, King & Gorin relied on our expertise in several narrowly focused areas – park zoning, permitting and local operational concerns, small business, unfair competition, public lands, travel and tourism, recreation and highway and transportation issues. We believed that these areas encompassed the areas of greatest interest and importance to ARVC members. Clearly, we cannot cover these issues with the depth and comprehensive knowledge that 1,000 lawyers can. If you’re going to lose on a competitive bidding situation, losing to the firm of McDermott, Will & Emory is understandable.
Aubrey and I wish ARVC and Jeff Sims as well as the new firm great success in continuing to represent the interests of park owners on the national scene. We both expect to continue to serve our other clients on these issues that are important to travel, tourism and outdoor recreation and we look forward to perhaps working with some of the lawyers at McDermott who will now be representing ARVC.
Over the years in Washington, I’ve learned lots of valuable lessons about how to best address the issues of importance to any industry group. Four important keys to success stand out in my mind and I share them here as they apply to the national, state and local levels of dealing with government.
First, as the saying goes, all politics is local. That means political power, relationships and actions all start at the very local level. Politicians respond first to the needs and interests of their direct constituents – those who cast votes in the politicians’ home district. Regardless of who lobbies a legislator or what the issue is, if the politician does not see a direct connection and interest to their primary constituents, it is hard to get them to take the issue on as a major and serious interest.
Second, to be successful in promoting legislation on any level, every industry group needs allies to build a critical mass of support. Very, very few industry segments are significantly powerful enough to have legislative initiatives enacted unless they have a broad base of support from allied industries or groups that share their views. Coalitions of interested industries or groups are just about essential to achieving objectives in the political arena. In the campground and RV park industry, to be politically successful requires allies such as RV manufacturers and dealers, RVers and camping consumers, travel and recreation groups, and product and services suppliers and vendors. Trying to achieve political objectives without a core group of allied interests is always a real challenge and is most likely to end short of success.
Third, providing politicians with reliable and accurate information about the issues and objectives is critical. Every issue must stand on its merits and identifying and understanding the merits of an issue can only be done with information properly documented and presented to clarify and support the issue. The primary job of a good lobbyist is to provide information to support their positions.
Fourth, like it or not, money talks in the political arena. Money does not buy or guarantee votes or results but it takes money to get attention and be taken seriously. It costs money to do research and gather and present credible information. It costs money to get the attention of politicians at all levels by participating in their campaigns, attending events and supporting them financially. It costs money to reach out to the media to explain issues and garner coverage of an issue. And it costs money to devote the time and energy to pursue important legislative and political goals.
These four principals apply at every level of government. Achieving political and legislative goals requires grassroots local involvement, creating coalitions of allies who support the goals, gathering and presenting information to make the case for support and funding the efforts are all key to success.
Having said that, I’ve been invited to continue to contribute a column to WCM and I look forward to doing that in the months and years ahead. I plan to continue to report on important government activities on the federal level and I also plan to report on trends and developments I encounter in my role as an industry consultant.
I am continually astounded by the number of people I meet who tell me they read my columns regularly and who are interested in my views and the information provided. I thank all of you who have read this column over the years and I hope you will continue to do so.
See you next month.
David Gorin, former ARVC CEO, is president of David Gorin & Associates, providing management consulting services to the outdoor hospitality industry. He’s also a partner in King & Gorin, specializing in Washington representation for associations and businesses in travel, tourism, transportation, recreation and public lands. Contact him at email@example.com or at (703) 448-6863.