WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Two former congressmen weren't allowed to leave the stage at Insured Retirement Institute’s Action19 conference until they answered the question everyone wanted to ask.
Moderator Alison Weiss, head of government relations for MassMutual, asked former U.S. Reps. Luke Messer, R-Ind., and Joe Crowley, D–NY, the burning question: What is the best way to lobby a lawmaker? Messer and Crowley were at the conference to discuss the outlook for the industry in 2019 and beyond.
When it comes to lobbying, Messer tried to explain why the obvious strategy -- getting face time with the legislator -- might not be the best way to go. Being a congressman can feel a little like "speed dating," Messer said.
"You go through 17 different eight-minute meetings with all the folks who want to see you," he said, with topics careening from retirement security to violence in Syria in a five-minute span.
The best lawmakers are the ones with the best and brightest staffers, Messer said. And those staffers get tremendous leeway to play gatekeeper in their respective policy areas.
"So that 24-year-old kid that you're thinking, 'Why the heck am I talking to him?' may very well be the decision-maker," Messer explained.
The policy staffers are the experts and getting meetings with them, and taking advantage of those meetings to press succinct points, is the best way to go, Messer and Crowley agreed.
Otherwise, be careful about pressing small complaints. Those things can spook lawmakers wary of hidden land mines, Messer said.
"The status quo is a fierce fighter in this town," he cautioned. "So the tendency to leave things the same is very strong."
What Will 2020 Bring?
The conversation covered a wide range of factors that could move the industry from data privacy and cyber security to social media and presidential candidates.
Crowley and Messer fielded a lot of questions about the 2020 presidential election during the panel. Crowley said that he believes the Democrats will focus heavily on health care heading into 2020 territory.
Messer was vague in his response, but said that he believes Republicans will focus on opportunity and the economy.
Crowley and Messer both expressed sentiment over the rising wave of populism around the world and the rise of democratic socialism in the United States. Crowley lost his reelection bid for New York’s 14th district to Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez, a known progressive and understudy of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt..
Despite being from opposite sides of the aisle, Messer and Crowley concluded that they did not think socialism was the direction the United States was headed toward in 2020.
Messer did add that he understood the frustrations that led to its surge in popularity.
“Folks distrust the existing establishment,” Messer said.
The former congressmen did have a hopeful message about politics and the retirement industry.
Messer said that Congress is largely “co-partisan” on the issue and interested in working together to find solutions to the retirement security crisis.
Crowley agreed adding that issues like retirement security, trade and data privacy could all be issues that Democrats work with the president to address.
AdvisorNews Managing Editor Cassie Miller may be reached at[email protected]. Cassie has an extensive background in magazine writing, editing and design. Follow her on Twitter @ANCassieM.