Much is happening on Capitol Hill nowadays, but the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association made sure its members are not lost in all activities.
Independent dealers from across the nation came out in force to make their voice heard by Congress as the 2019 NIADA National Policy Conference wrapped up last week.
More than 225 dealers and industry leaders attended the annual gathering in Washington D.C., meeting with more than 130 members of the Senate and House of Representatives or their legislative staff. Both of those numbers are the most since the event returned to the nation’s capital in 2013.
“I’m a very small part of this industry, but I felt like I had a voice today,” said Brenna Stansberry, owner of Park Marina Motors in Redding, Calif. “I felt like I had power today. And that’s something that’s priceless. It is really empowering.”
A record 19 teams of dealers and industry partners spread out on Capitol Hill to deliver the message of the used vehicle industry and small business.
That included teams representing NIADA’s affiliated state associations from:
— North Carolina
— South Carolina
— Mid-Atlantic region (MARIADA)
— New Mexico
The teams visited all or most of their states’ representatives and senators.
“We had record attendance and reached more congressional offices than we ever have before, so our influence is growing,” NIADA senior vice president of legal and government affairs Shaun Petersen said. “But I think the real measure of success starts with the message.
“When we first started coming, the message was, ‘We’re NIADA – we’re used car dealers.’ We spent time talking about who we are. Now we’re at a point where people know who we are and we can get into the weeds on issues that make a difference to our dealers.”
During the Day on the Hill’s Power Luncheon in the historic Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) was named NIADA’s 2019 Legislator of the Year.
Luetkemeyer is an influential member of the House Financial Services Committee and is the ranking Republican on the Consumer Protection and Financial Institutions Subcommittee.
He is a strong proponent of reforming the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and backed bills that repealed the CFPB’s controversial guidance on indirect auto lending and Arbitration Rule. He also sponsored a bill that made the annual privacy notice procedure less burdensome for small businesses.
“It’s important that you’re here,” Luetkemeyer told the dealers, “to let your representatives know what is important to you – what issues you have concerns about. I want to hear from you. I want to hear the stories of how what we do here in Washington is impactful to your business.
“Those are things we want to know, and we want to hear it from you. Because when we hear it from you, we know it’s something that’s really important to you. … This is your livelihood. This means something to you.”
The conference’s congressional engagement began Tuesday evening with the Friends of the Auto Industry Congressional Reception, a rooftop event overlooking the Capitol that allowed dealers to interact with Reps. Roger Williams (R-Texas) and Andy Barr (R-Ky.).
“As dealers, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and focus on the day-to-day operations,” NIADA chief executive officer Steve Jordan said. “But when you get out of that and come to D.C. and talk to members of Congress about the issues that affect all of us, it’s a powerful thing.”
PAC Cup raises more than $150,000 for NIADA-PAC Fund
In other news related to the event, the association said more than $150,000 was raised for the NIADA Political Action Committee fund as the 2019 PAC Cup competition concluded during last week’s National Policy Conference in Washington D.C.
The annual fundraising contest, in its sixth year, pits the National Independent Automobile Dealers Association’s four regions against each other in a friendly competition, with the cup going to the region that contributes the most to the NIADA-PAC fund through the NPC.
The fund helps NIADA support candidates for office who will protect the interests of small business and independent dealers.
Region III — representing the nation’s midsection from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas in the Nouth to Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota in the North — claimed the Cup for the second consecutive year, defending its title by raising $57,550 to again edge Region II (Southeast).
Region IV (West) took third place, followed by Region I (Northeast).
As always, the competition came down to the final frenzied evening, as Region III vice president Scott Allen and his counterparts rallied their troops during the NPC’s PAC Cup dinner overlooking the Capitol.
“We have fun with it,” Allen said of the competition, “but the truth is we’re all on the same team. No matter who wins the Cup, our goal is to give independent vehicle dealers a voice in shaping the policies that affect our industry and our businesses, and the contributions made to the PAC fund are a vital tool toward achieving that goal.”
During the National Policy Conference, the NIADA-PAC fund made contributions to several members of Congress, including Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Andy Barr (R-Ky.) and Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), who was named NIADA’s 2019 Legislator of the Year.
“So many in Washington don’t understand the concept of free enterprise,” Barr told dealers during the NPC, “especially in an industry like yours, which is so competitive. Competition and choice is consumer protection. Free enterprise is consumer protection.
“As your elected representatives in Congress … we will commit to you, the people who create jobs and serve your customers through competition and choice, that we are going to be a watchful eye of oversight over unelected bureaucrats so you can do your job and serve your customers.”