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Issue link: http://gcmdigital.gcsaa.org/i/352181
36 GOLF COURSE MANAGEMENT 08.14 Whenever I discuss regulatory and legis- lative developments in Washington with golf course superintendents and other clients, I stress how partisanship and gridlock have changed federal decision-making. It's what I call the "New Washington": a place where brinksmanship and political grandstanding lead to little consensus within Congress on the issues that impact our lives; those decisions that are made come at the eleventh hour and the rest are pushed off to regulatory agencies, who keep fnding new ways to make your lives miserable. This would discourage anyone, but GCSAA must remain vigilant and politically active in order to make sure golf 's voice is heard by decision-makers. A word or two on how we got here. One big reason is that few people who are eligible to vote actually bother to do so. That increases the importance of those who vote and gives in - fuence to any group that can promise to bring large numbers of those voters to the polls. Ex - perts at George Mason University looked at voter turnout for the presidential election of 2012, for example, and found that only 58 per - cent of eligible voters actually voted. That's just over 130 million people. Looking at it another way, 42 percent of eligible voters (about 91 mil - lion), did not do so. (McDonald, Michael P. 2012 General Election Turnout Rates, United States Elections Project, http://elections.gmu. edu .) Those are the high-water marks. In the midterms, voter turnout drops further. Change in campaign fnance puts the av - erage citizen at a disadvantage in getting the ear of his or her lawmaker. In the 2010 ruling Citizens United v. Federal Election Commis - sion, the U.S. Supreme Court opened the door to direct corporate spending in elections. Prior to Citizens United, corporations, trade associ - ations and labor unions had to form a Political Action Committee (PAC) to solicit funds and give them to candidates. Now they can advo - cate directly for candidates, and pay for polit- ical advertising that expressly supports them, provided they do not coordinate with the can - didate or political campaign. Citizens United has given rise to the "Super PAC," which raises and spends unlimited amounts of funds on be - half of political candidates. Additionally, this year the Supreme Court removed the aggregate limits facing donors in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. Before McCutcheon, those amounts were capped so that an indi - vidual could only donate $48,600 to all candi- dates and $74,600 to all PACs and party com- mittees for 2013-2014 ( www.fec.gov ). Now those aggregate limits are gone. The last two remaining (and attractive) campaign fnance restrictions are the ban on direct con - tributions from corporations and the individ- ual limit on campaign donations (currently set at $2,600 per candidate for each primary and general election). Expect lawsuits challenging these restrictions to come soon. Now, look at Congress: It's a midterm elec - tion year. The entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate are up for re-elec - tion, and that colors every vote and every com- mittee hearing that you read about. While the House is not likely to change hands, Republi - cans have a very good chance of taking con- trol of the Senate. But don't expect anything to happen on immigration reform, energy eff - ciency, transportation infrastructure and other important bills. Instead, expect to see more Memo to GCSAA: The 'New Washington' is here to stay (Advocacy) Bob Helland oversight hearings and showdowns over how the next round of sequestration cuts will im - pact government spending. Don't let the political environment I refer to scare you. And don't worry so much about who is in power at any given time. To use a golf analogy, we need to think of our long game here, not our short game. Government relations work never ends for the golf industry, as for all other industries impacted by federal decision-makers. If golf 's voice is not heard, ex - pect decisions to be made that will impact the bottom lines at your courses. GCSAA has answered the call. Year after year on National Golf Day, GCSAA sends a large contingent to lobby Congress. GCSAA also lobbies year-round on a number of issues such as fnding relief through the Clean Water Act National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Pesticide General Permit, preserving the H-2B visa program and assuring product availability. GCSAA now has the EPA's new "Waters of the U.S." proposed rule to add to the plate. We are here to help GCSAA navigate through these diffcult issues and challeng - ing times. Together, let's educate those members of Congress and the executive branch who do not understand how laws and regulations can impact an industry that generates $176.8 bil - lion in total economic output, including 2 million U.S. jobs. That's how we win in the "New Washington." Bob Helland is government services advisor with Reed Smith LLP, the Washington, D.C.-based frm that helps GCSAA advance its federal advocacy agenda. Photo by Orhan Cam/Shutterstock.com