Not All Lobbyists Are Bad

Not All Lobbyists Are Bad

Group of smiling professionals inside office on Capital Hill

Clean Yield's Dorigen Hofmann and members of US SIF visiting Capitol Hill

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Earlier this month, on behalf of Clean Yield, Dorigen took to the Hill with colleagues to lobby Senate and House offices on issues related to shareholder rights and climate change. Organized by the US SIF, the SRI industry trade association, the effort paired Dorigen with individuals from four other committed firms and an impressive array of Hill staffers who were eager to hear about the issues.

The group met with staff from the offices of Senators Cardin, Cortez Masto, Feinstein, Schumer, and Donnelly, as well as Representatives Beyer, Hoyer, Raskin, and the Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee. The primary goal for discussion was to educate lawmakers on the current status and components of the Choice Act. After being passed in the House last spring, but with no real chance of 60 votes in the Senate, the bill will probably get taken up by the Senate, and then again in the House, as piecemeal legislation. Republicans hungry for a win may strip off certain easier pieces, such as the shareholder rights changes, and introduce those alone – and now all of the offices the group met with are on guard for such action. Staffers from Rep. Hoyer’s office were particularly engaged and knowledgeable on the current state of the Choice Act, since Rep. Hoyer serves as the Minority Whip. They provided a potential timeline to watch for piecemeal legislation (spring 2018).

The highlight of the day came from a member meeting with Rep. Jamie Raskin, who happens to be Dorigen’s Maryland representative. Not only did his office look as though it belonged in Vermont (with a “how to spot a fascist” poster and tie dye wall hangings), but he was knowledgeable and motivated on issues around social investing, B Corps, shareholder rights, and environmental protection. In conversation, the group learned that while he did vote “No” on the Choice Act, he actually was not aware of how it decimates the ability of small shareholders and firms to file resolutions. With this new information, his office offered to reach out if there were further engagement opportunities or ways we could help prevent this act from moving forward.

The other task of the day was to encourage the legislators to keep being vigilant on environmental regulation and make sure they knew that at least part of the business community not only believes in climate change but supports efforts to regulate carbon. The offices were happy to know that there is a segment of the business community that is behind them and willing to speak out! The group led with the ironic fact that on the same day President Trump withdrew from the Paris Agreement, a majority of shareholders at Exxon Mobil voted to request that the company provide an analysis of climate risks. Staffers quickly agreed that if Exxon shareholders can see climate change as real and problematic, there might be some hope in rallying the business community around these issues.

If you should find yourself in Washington, D.C., and are interested in having your voice heard, Dorigen will attest to how easy and gratifying it is to speak to the staff of your representatives. They do want to hear from constituents about what matters to them, and we are happy to give you talking points on environmental, social, and shareholder issues from the investor’s point of view. In the meantime, we will continue to update you regularly on the Choice Act or any splinter legislation that might affect shareholder rights. While the mood of progressives in D.C. these days is definitely defensive, people are fighting harder than ever on issues that affect all of us.

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