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November 25, 2015 | by Julie Cram, former deputy assistant to President Bush

Raise Your Voice

MSCI’s government affairs advisor gives the lowdown on what really matters in Washington.

Julie Cram understands how Washington really works.

When she served as deputy assistant to the president and director of public liaison at the White House in 2007, she was instrumental in fostering consensus and building coalitions, executing stakeholder outreach plans around complex and difficult issues. It isn’t everything House of Cards makes it out to be, she’ll have you know.

In a recent interview with Edge, Cram described her experience with gaining influence and attention in the political sphere.

Edge: Since many MSCI member companies don’t have a staff member dedicated to government relations, what are the most effective ways to make our voices heard?

Cram: Great question. The most important step is to begin to build a relationship. Think of it just like a cold sales call. The same tactics apply — relationships matter. I’d recommend inviting a member of Congress to your business for a plant tour or to a chapter event. It’s a win-win for everyone — lawmakers meet voters and you have the opportunity to provide your perspective on the issues that matter most to you and our industry.

Do members of Congress really listen to their constituents?

ABSOLUTELY!  Increasingly, the policy battle lines are drawn outside Washington — in the districts or states — so what happens at home is what matters most. Lawmakers understand that if they want to keep their jobs, their first priority is to represent, and be responsive to, their constituents. 

Today’s polarized climate has created a real sense of frustration and apathy among voters, but this is actually the best time to get in touch with your representatives because they are eager to be educated. In Washington, they’re bombarded with people who are paid to tell one side of the story. We need to tell our side—for example, what it’s like to pick between keeping good healthcare benefits or using those revenues to pay for regulatory compliance. It’s our job, MSCI’s and yours, to share how their actions impact your business, your family and your community. MSCI is doing that, but we need your help to bring the message home.

How important is it to have outside voices, “real” Americans, behind an issue or proposal?

When I worked at the White House, my job was to understand how the president’s priorities impacted Americans and U.S. businesses and include those perspectives in the policymaking process. In other words, to educate and activate Americans inside and outside of Washington to support an issue.

So I have particular insight into how voices matter in the legislative process. When the President won or lost on an issue, it was because people at home communicated their support or opposition to their representatives. 

MSCI is a member of a number of coalitions. Why? What role do coalitions play in Washington?

A coalition is a group of like-minded associations that band together to advocate for or against a particular piece of legislation. They are an extremely effective and efficient channel to Congress and a great example of that old adage, “the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.” In other words, we can amplify our members’ voices very efficiently and with greater impact than if we were going it alone. MSCI is a member of more than 15 coalitions in the United States and Canada and is particularly active in those that immediately impact members’ bottom-lines, like the Save LIFO group that is working to preserve the LIFO accounting method. Another example is the group formed to ensure that tax reform is tackled in an equitable, comprehensive way, not with one-off measures. 

Read more about MSCI’s work in government affairs.