Now that legislative sessions are over, campaign season is in full swing! Engaging in campaign activities can be a great way to build your organization’s reputation and raise visibility within your community. But you want to do it smart and in ways that will reflect positively on your organization, your members, and your community.
Chambers of commerce and industry associations can make endorsements without creating a political action committee (PAC). If you choose to raise and disburse funds to candidates or issues, then you need a PAC, but if you just want to lend your name and credibility to a candidate or cause, you don’t have to have one – but it is important to have a strong endorsement policy. Here are a few tips for ensuring that your organization’s endorsement policies are above reproach:
1. Develop and maintain written criteria for your endorsement process. This gives consistency to your decision-making process and protects against favoritism. At some point, someone will question your process; if you can hand him or her a binder with a very clear and well-thought-out outline of your process and documentation of how you have followed that process, then you can feel secure in your commitment to treating all candidates the same.
2. Consistently apply your process. If you ask one candidate to complete a campaign questionnaire, make sure you get that questionnaire out to all candidates in a race. If you are using a panel to interview candidates, be certain to use the use the same panelists for all interviews. Consistency is paramount in making sound endorsement decisions and helping your members and community feel confident you are making reasoned, thoughtful decisions based on research rather than whim or pre-existing relationships.
3. And finally, remember who you represent! As a chamber of commerce or industry association, it is critical that campaign activities be conducted with integrity and dignity. You are the face of your organization and it’s important that you always represent them in ways in which you (and they) will be proud.
Engaging in the political process is our civic responsibility and voters are eager to know which candidates support a strong, vibrant economy. And it can be a lot of fun! So take the plunge and get engaged in a way that will put your organization on the map.