By AANR Executive Director Erich Schuttauf
Throughout this week I have been attending the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) in Louisville, Kentucky, along with AANR President-Elect Susan Weaver. My daughters also leant a helping hand as we staffed a booth for the 17th consecutive year at this very important conference.
Overview. According to personal conversations I had with NCSL staff, approximately 4,500 lawmakers, staff, and fellow exhibitors attended this year’s event. The guest speakers included U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. True to NCSL’s bipartisan philosophy, they also included Senator Mitch McConnell, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, plus a major general just back from duty in Iraq.
Other Exhibitors. To give you an idea of how significant an opportunity this presents to reach influential policymakers with a message, one need only consider the caliber of corporations who have made it a point to be there recently: Coca-Cola (to combat recent attempts to place a “sin tax” on sugared drinks much as tobacco is taxed), Wal-Mart (to deal with increasingly difficult zoning issues and “no Wal-Mart here” campaigns, M&M Mars (because the sale of candy in schools and youth programs is drawing fire as obesity rates climb), Wells Fargo (the home mortgage crisis and banking regulation), to name a few.
It doesn’t stop with corporations: the American Automobile Association (AAA), the ASPCA and Humane Society, plus the American Cancer Society and the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) were represented.
The Federal Government and Unions do not miss the event either: The U.S. Dept. of Education, U.S. Army, AFSCME, and SECIU unions (who represent some of the largest blocks of workers) all make a point to be there.
Influence. But here’s a fact that may surprise you: Your American Association for Nude Recreation has been consistently attending for longer than ANY of the above-mentioned groups.
That’s correct. AANR’s “seniority” places us 37th in the all-time list of those who have been reaching influentials there. Only a handful of groups (including the National Rifle Association, the pharmacy industry, and both sides of the tobacco debate) have an edge on AANR. To give you an idea of just what that means, consider that AARP is about twenty positions below us. Wells Fargo ranks 112, Wal-Mart, M&M Mars, and Coca Cola do not even make it into the top 125.
That seniority represents much more than bragging rights. We receive very high priority in selecting next year’s booth location. (We will be directly at the main entrance to the exhibit hall in San Antonio for 2011.) It also means that AANR has woven the subject of nude recreation into the very fabric of the American political scene.
Policy. There may be an occasional smirk from a “rookie” attending for the first time. It is also true that we bring a welcomed smile and bit of humor to sessions that involve subjects as intense as the banking crisis, huge budget deficits within states, and immigration. But veteran attendees and the thousands who come by AANR’s booth to talk with us also know we mean serious business. We discuss the challenges of zoning, liquor licensing, nudist publishing, and how nude recreation is sometimes confused with adult entertainment.
Our volunteers help change mindsets. In a few cases we have made AANR members out of lawmakers, staff, and vendors… Yes. Yes we have! They have stopped by to proudly show us membership cards and tell us about the clubs and beaches they visit.
With each passing year, it also becomes more and more difficult for lawmakers to view nude recreation as something on the fringe, novel, or otherwise “out there.” The best evidence is the willingness of lawmakers and staff to approach our table no matter what party affiliation they hold or state from which they come. We gain inside information on what prompted adverse and positive legislation, and how to deal with it. We gain valuable contacts too.
Canadian Leadership and Beyond. It is a lesser-known fact that more Canadian lawmakers attend than those from any given state or two. This means that we have an opportunity to explain nude recreation to many neighbors to the north Leaders from as far as Europe and Africa also attend.
Media Attention. AANR comes to NCSL prepared with press releases. Susan and I make ourselves available to talk with reporters and journalists. This year Susan was filmed on camera by ABC News, New York although a segment has not yet aired. The following stories have already mentioned us, however:
The Economist magazine (online):
BloodHorse.com (covering the horse racing and gaming industry):