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A Reminder of Why Washington Matters

A Report By AANR Executive Director Erich Schuttauf…

Last week ten members of AANR and I wrapped up visits to Capitol Hill along with meetings with officials from several public lands agencies and even the judiciary in Washington, D.C.

 Some may wonder why these visits are important. After all, most of the issues our clubs and members face occur at the local and state level.  Washington seems far away.  And federal regulations don’t seem to affect them much.  Why spend time and money trying to establish relationships and position ourselves as an expert resource there?

 I’d like to share a true story from among my experiences last week which may help answer that question.  It does not involve the subject of nude recreation, but is quite illustrative.

 While in the office of a member of Congress, I observed three men having an “animated” discussion with a staff person.  I listened with one ear as I wrote notes on material I was dropping off with the front desk.  As the discussion progressed, the three men sounded more and more desperate.

 “This is killing our business.” 

 “We are already suffering from a downturn in the economy and now customers refuse, or are being directed to refuse, our service.”

 “Most of these businesses are just like ours.  We own or lease just one vehicle and use it in our local community.  But the federal government is putting us out of business.”

 Who were these men?  From what I could gather of the conversation, one was a private pilot, the other two drove “black cars.”  All three were from a place far from the marble-lined halls of Washington.

 You are familiar with black cars drivers.  They are the people who pick up travelers for whom appointments have been made at the airport.  Usually you see them in the baggage claim area holding cardboard signs with names scrawled on them.

 Their troubles come in the wake of recent public uproar about overpaid banking, finance, and auto executives who have sought federal “bailout” money through things like TARP (the Troubled Assets Relief Program).  Washington has grilled such executives over expensive perks like private jets and limousines; scorn that began with such excesses eventually reached the simple private aircraft chartered to reach remote destinations and black cars which are usually only modestly priced more than other forms of transportation.

 New measures pending in Congress would prohibit the use of such services by any institution receiving TARP type assistance if there is any cheaper means of travel available.  Problem is, even those who have not applied for federal help are directing personnel to avoid services like black cars, anticipating that they may need bailouts in the future.

 However one may personally feel about the issue it makes the point that the nation’s capitol can have a powerful business-ending impact on a very local one-person car business. (You’ll remember that it was finance, insurance, and auto executives seeking help, not private pilots and drivers.)

 Let’s suppose we could turn back the clock about four years and go to those same drivers and pilots.  Suppose we asked them to travel as unpaid volunteers to Washington to share their stories during pro-active office visits.  Or to pay membership dues and donate or raise money to send other volunteers.  What kind of responses do you think we’d get?

 “Why do I care about Washington, D.C.?  The local license fee that the City of ____ charges me is much more important.”

 “What would we do there?  Put a face on drivers for some Congress person I don’t even know.  For what?  A few pennies on a federal gas tax or something?”

 “We would never have an issue.  Congress couldn’t or wouldn’t dare to touch our business.  They probably need our cars.  Besides, if there’s ever an issue we’ll go see Congress then.”

 When the American Association for Nude Recreation reports news of Washington visits I sometimes hear similar talk.         

 For the three men I observed visiting Congress last week, it may be too late.  The wording affecting their businesses is already in several bills.  It happened because anger with a few executives in a few industries was directed at the services they and other business travelers used.  When lawmakers thought of its implications they saw overpaid executives instead of small business owners.  Or drivers with families to support.  Or the faces that welcome a traveler to a strange town.

 With these points in mind, I invite you to read the following article prepared by a Fox News congressional correspondent concerning your AANR GAT Team.  I am very proud of them and I think you should be too.

http://congress.blogs.foxnews.com/2009/06/13/universal-coverage/

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