PODCAST: Government relations 101 for CPAs

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

You might not think often about what goes on at the Ohio Statehouse every day and how it impacts the accounting profession, but The Ohio Society of CPAs government relations team does. “We serve as educators,” said Barb Benton, CAE, vice president of government relations at The Ohio Society of CPAs. “Our role is to speak as one voice on behalf of all of our members on a particular issue.”

Benton and Greg Saul, Esq., CAE, director of tax policy, joined the latest episode of The State of Business podcast to discuss their work and how members can get involved with advocacy efforts. It all starts with what they call a “three-legged stool.”

“That’s lobbying, grassroots and the political action committee, also known as the PAC,” Benton said. “Those are all as integral as you would expect. The three-legged stool can't stand on two legs or one leg, it needs all three.”

The pair also dispelled some common misconceptions about lobbyists, and the importance of sharing only the correct, not presumed, information.

“Our goal is to make sure everything we say is absolutely accurate,” Benton said. “We share both sides of an issue because we think that's fair for any elected official to know who's on the other side, what they might care about and why.”

Another misconception Saul said he hears is that lobbyists only work to get legislation approved.

“There are also a lot of bad bills out there that we prevent from even getting passed,” he said. “And a lot of times that's not always a part of the story we are able to tell.”

For accountants interested in getting involved with legislative work there are multiple opportunities, such as the Key Contact program, where individuals make themselves available when OSCPA needs grassroots input on a relevant issue.

Members don’t need to personally know a legislator to reach out about something they care about, either. Benton and Saul said they are happy to assist members in talking to their representatives, because the more input a legislator has from CPAs, the more informed their decisions will be.

“Let us know if there's an issue out there that is bothering you, whether it be a legislative issue or at the Department of Taxation or even if it's with the Accountancy Board of Ohio,” Saul said. “We’re covering this stuff, but our members are our eyes and ears and we need to hear from them on what is impacting their clients and or their businesses.”

Listen to the episode now to hear about the three-legged stool, how you can get involved with legislative efforts and more.

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