OIA in D.C.: Notes From the Hill—Capitol Summit 2019 Recap

When OIA’s members sit across the table from members of Congress, real change happens. Capitol Summit is a key piece of the advocacy puzzle that impacts our legislative efforts throughout the year. Whether you joined us for Capitol Summit or not, we want you engaged.

If I’ve learned one thing in my years inside the beltway, it’s that Washington D.C.—specifically, Capitol Hill—is unpredictable. The headlines over the past week certainly confirm that, but the past week was no more erratic than any other. That’s why it is so important that we maintain a steady drumbeat in the halls of Congress and constantly communicate with our elected officials about how policies affect our businesses and our consumers.  

Two weeks ago, I climbed Capitol Hill with more than 100 Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) members—industry leaders from small, medium and large companies, representing 30 states—during our annual Capitol Summit lobbying event. In the span of eight hours on May 1, we had 103 meetings in the Senate and House of Representatives—a new record.  More than half of those were sit-down, face-to-face meetings with elected members of Congress, while the others were with their high-ranking staffers versed on our issues. These meetings give us an opportunity to cement longstanding relationships with those who champion our causes or to bring skeptics closer to our side. I am also thrilled to say that many of our meetings this year were in offices we’ve never visited before, giving us several opportunities to gain new Congressional champions.  

Of course, this is work that our government affairs team does year-round on behalf of OIA members. But there is truly nothing better or more impactful than your personal stories to help localize and personalize the impact of the outdoor industry on American communities. The day before we lobbied, in fact, members of Congress or their staffers told us this directly. At our Lobby 101 session, we heard from Senator Daines (R-MT) and staff for Senator Rob Portman (R-OH), Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO02), and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD). We also honored and heard from Senators Portman and Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Rep. Del Bene (D-WA1) and Rep. Fitzpatrick (R-PA1) as this year’s Friends of the Industry. They implored OIA members to talk candidly about how policies affect them; they also shared their own personal stories about how important outdoor recreation is in their own lives and in the districts and states they represent.  

In the span of eight hours on May 1, we had 103 meetings in the Senate and House of Representatives—a new record.  More than half of those were sit-down, face-to-face meetings with elected members of Congress, while the others were with their high-ranking staffers versed on our issues. These meetings give us an opportunity to cement longstanding relationships with those who champion our causes or to bring skeptics closer to our side.

But our issues aren’t just close to home and close to lot hearts of on Capitol Hill; they’re also top of mind for policymakers because they’re above the fold on front pages of newspapers across the country. Tariffs and trade, for example, were at the top of our list of talking points during our meetings, and we conveyed to Congress that tariffs substantially raise costs for outdoor companies, stifle innovation and job growth, and prevent more Americans from getting outdoors. Following President Trump’s decision last week to raise the China 301 tariffs from 10 to 25 percent and to add more products to the list, we are well-positioned, having been there so recently and regularly, to follow up. Our stories are fresh in the minds of the staffers and members of Congress with whom we met, and we intend to hold fast to our message that #tariffshurt American businesses because #tariffsaretaxes. In fact, a report from the Trade Partnership found that an increase to 25 percent, on top of already existing tariffs, could reduce employment by more than 2 million jobs, cost the average American family almost $2,300 and reduce GDP by 1.04 percent.  

Even if you didn’t attend Capitol Summit in person this year, you can still participate in our ongoing advocacy on trade and other issues by using our Advocacy Actions, including this one urging the administration to resolve the trade dispute with China, remove all additional tariffs on outdoor products, and refrain from imposing new tariffs.  

Our stories are fresh in the minds of the staffers and members of Congress with whom we met, and we intend to hold fast to our message that #tariffshurt American businesses because #tariffsaretaxes. In fact, a report from the Trade Partnership found that an increase to 25 percent, on top of already existing tariffs, will reduce employment by nearly a million jobs, cost the average American family almost $800 and reduce GDP by 0.37 percent.  

And while we’re talking about heavy costs, we can’t ignore the importance and timeliness of another top issue on our agenda: climate. We met directly with the chairs of the Senate and House Select Committees on Climate to convey the impact that climate change is having on outdoor businesses and recreation opportunities and, therefore, on the $887 billion outdoor recreation economy. Use this Advocacy Action on our website to add your own personal message to the ongoing story, and be sure to follow OIA as we continue to engage. Next week, in fact, we will participate in another Capitol Hill lobbying event with the broader business community to make the business case for climate action.    

Finally, we asked everyone we met with to ensure better access and maintenance of our public lands by supporting the Restore Our Parks Act (S. 500 & H.R. 1225) and the soon to be introduced Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act and Recreation Not Red Tape Act.  Since our fly-in, the Restore Our Parks legislation has secured 18 new cosponsors, with a total of 233 in the House and 36 in the Senate.  Use this Advocacy Action on our website to urge your congressional delegation to support S.500 and HR 1225 to alleviate the maintenance backlog on national parks. 

Our 2019 Capitol Summit was a great success largely due to the active participation and enthusiasm from our membership.  We thank you and will continue to provide you the tools to actively participate in advocacy year-round.  In the meantime, OIA’s team in Washington D.C., will continue to elevate the voice of the outdoor industry and its impact on the nation’s economy.  

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