Highlights From the Hill: Capitol Summit 2018

Another year, another successful lobbying event on Capitol Hill. Thanks to all those who joined us to advocate for the outdoors.

April 25, 2018

Kicking things off with the launch of the first-ever Outdoor Recreation Economy Congressional District Data reports on Tuesday morning and wrapping with the Friends of the Outdoor Industry award reception, the 2018 OIA Capitol Summit was three days of powerful advocacy and lobbying that has become a tradition and has elevated our industry’s voice with policymakers in D.C. and at the state and local level.

Here are a few direct quotes, a few paraphrased insights and handful of Tweets shared throughout the week that put the event and its impact in context.


Last year we launched our Capitol Summit event with the release of national data that showed outdoor recreation in the United States contributes $887 billion and 7.6 million jobs to the economy. This year, we wanted to localize those numbers and provide close-to-home context for businesses, the media, policymakers and voters. OIA Executive Director Amy Roberts opened with a few stories about how outdoor infrastructure has either reinvented or completely taken over local economies where other industries have gone dormant.

“Across the country, you can already see examples of policymakers diversifying their district economies to include outdoor recreation, and what we’ve seen are states beginning to establish offices of outdoor recreation that help drive that message both in attracting outdoor recreation companies, but in many cases attracting other industries that are looking to hire employees that are well-sought-after and want to have a quality of life for themselves and their families. So, the district reports that we’re releasing today validate the movement I’m talking about.” —Amy Roberts, Executive Director, OIA


“You can’t manage what you don’t measure. With these data, we finally get a sense of the contribution of the outdoor industry to our [local economies]. It means we’re gonna make much different, better decisions on Capitol Hill about open space, about wilderness, about parks, about all the different things that we’re increasingly gonna need.” —Virginia Congressman Don Byer (D-8th)

“It so well reflects the values of my state and district. With the launch of the congressional outdoor recreation caucus, we were able to highlight the impact of the outdoor recreation industry and frankly the launch of these congressional district recreation and economy reports is yet another really important step towards validating and showing what all of us in this room already know: The outdoor recreation industry is a massive and important part of our nation’s economic vitality and jobs. Truly, the jobs created by the outdoor industry touch every part of every single congressional district in the country, and with the data that we have, it’ll help us make that case to my colleagues on the hill.” —Colorado Congressman Jared Polis (D-2nd)


Some attendees are old vets, some are new recruits. We all have something new to learn about politics in D.C., especially in this day and age. Speakers from across the spectrum, both sides of the aisle and all manner of outdoorists peppered us with tips and their subject-matter expertise before we hit the Hill to make our asks. A few notable takeaways:

Chief political advisor to Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, founder of No Labels, and cohost of Showtime’s The Circus, Mark McKinnon is trying to bring bipartisanship to the District. He walked Capitol Summit attendees through a few examples of political campaigns that worked and a few that very much did not. What we learned: A successful campaign—be it a political run for office, a lobbying effort or a marketing initiative for our brand or retail store—needs two things: clear rationale and authenticity. We think of storytelling in terms of culture: books, television, etc. It’s the same for campaigns. When candidates ask us what we mean, we say, think about a classic narrative arc.

  • Establish an opportunity or threat that you want to improve or diminish.
  • Identify who are the victims of the denied opportunity or who is the threat.
  • Propose solutions and reveal the hero.

In the frame of the last election, what you need to do in the modern era is storytelling. Agree or disagree with him, President Trump mastered the storytelling arc in his campaign. What were the threats? Immigration, moving jobs off shore, shrinking middle class. Who’s to blame? China, Mexico, Syria, Iran. What’s the solution? Build a wall, bring jobs back, rebuild coal industry. Who can do it? Only me.  —Mark McKinnon, former political advisor and cohost of Showtime’s The Circus.

Erin Gaines, a former Congressional staffer who now works for Keen, piggybacked off of McKinnon’s charge to offer clear rationale and authenticity in our Hill meetings. Her advice: Don’t be nervous; talk about what you know; tell us a story with emotion; don’t worry so much about the facts and figures; if you’re asked a question about your industry or a bill and you don’t know the answer, just say, I’m not sure and I’ll get back to you, then follow up.

Five things to make sure you’re conveying in Hill meetings:

  • who you are and where you’re from
  • info about your company
  • your connection to the industry
  • a direct ask
  • ask what the staff needs from YOU

Jayme White, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden’s Trade Advisor, gave us some insight into the current administration’s trade platform.

  • Their trade priorities seem to be loaded by perceptions of unfairness
  • their response tends to be confrontational
  • their method tends to be disruptive (not necessarily a bad thing, but not always productive)

Jen Austin, with We Mean Business, a coalition of seven big NGOs, that all work on climate came to reemphasize the power of the business voice on lands issues.

“It’s easy to think that biz is anti-regulation. We’re looking to aggregate business voices that realize the risk to businesses of NOT acting and how getting out ahead of regulation is good for business and the climate.”


Colorado’s Governor John Hickenlooper has been a great friend to the outdoor industry. And since he was in D.C., Tuesday evening, we wanted to say “thanks.”

We also awarded Friend of the Industry awards to Montana Senator John Tester (D), Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D), Wyoming Governor Matt Mead (R), Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (D), New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-21st) and Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-3rd).


On Wednesday, we sent 14 teams out for a total of 88 meetings with members and their staff. In total, we spoke with representatives in 33 states. For first-time attendee Kristin Hostetter, the experience was eye-opening and faith-restoring. Read about her experience here.

Lobbying Issues:

Partner Testimonies

  • “We have to be thought leaders for change and progress in our industry and for our planet. The way to do that is through engagement and education. Joining other industry leaders at the Capitol Summit allows us to achieve that.” – Kelly Kraus, EVP – North America Brands, Stanley-PMI
  • “OIA Capitol Summit gives us an opportunity to do something very D.C. – hit the hill to visit with the legislators that impact our country and our client’s brands everyday on issues that matter to all of us.” – Admirable Devil
  • “Inside us all exists an adventurous soul. A wild heart that is called from nature to live authentically and free from modern society.” – Mountain Khakis
  • “The outdoor industry makes innovative products and significant contributions to the U.S. economy, so it is crucial that our legislators understand the challenges we face with regard to import tariffs and land conservation policies that jeopardize continued access for outdoor recreation.” – W.L Gore & Associates

Thank you to our Capitol Summit Partners