March-April 2019

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E arly in my career, I landed a job on Capitol Hill working with Senator Mark O. Hatfield, who represents my home state of Oregon. I was making a whopping $21,500, and if you've lived or know of somebody who lives in DC, that is not very much. I distinctly remember getting a $60 a month transit subsidy, and being overjoyed that my then-girlfriend, now wife, and I were able to buy brand name Kraft mac-n-cheese. Not long after I arrived in Washington, I plunked down a good amount of cash, (what would cover about two weeks of groceries) to attend a political fundraiser. It was a lot of money for us, but the candidate was important to me, and I believed in him. I also knew that attending the event was part of a bigger picture. At first, I felt guilty contributing to a fundraiser because I viewed it as trying to affect an election with cash. I also wondered if I was becoming one of the "political elites." As a young staffer, we had a tight household budget. But we made the conscience decision to go stretch ourselves thin to support a candidate that I really cared about. And I'm happy to report that I still care about this candidate. Attending the fundraiser allowed me to start building a long-term relationship with a political candidate that has been extremely helpful – both personally, especially when my father passed, and politically. The connections made so many years ago carry over today into my work for NWPCA and our industry. Politics affect all of us, whether for good or bad – or a delicate mix of the two. We watched the 24-hour news coverage of the Kavanaugh Supreme Court hearings. That outcome impacts the Supreme Court and decisions about the direction of our country, and even the pallet business, for decades to come. You have to ask what is the impact of a Political Action Committee (PAC), even one as focused as the NWPCA PAC? Despite media portrayal, a PAC doesn't buy you an election or a vote. It gives you a voice. When schedules are tight, or you need to reach a member of Congress where there isn't a prior relationship, a PAC is a tool to give the industry a voice. A PAC gives you an audience at a breakfast, lunch, or dinner conversation, when a meeting can't be scheduled. Let's talk about the elephant in the room, PACs have a terrible reputation for flooding elections with tons of money. In the wake of the 2012 Citizens United Supreme Court decision, which held that corporations, unions, and individuals could spend unlimited funds on political advertisements via "Super PACs." Simply put, PACs are here to stay. It is hard to get anywhere in the country's political system without PACs. According to an article by Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig in the Atlantic, only a tiny fraction of the population, .26 percent, give more than $200 to a congressional campaign. More than $10,000 is contributed by .01 percent, and less than 200 citizens (.000063 percent) have given more than three-quarters of the super PAC money that flowed through the 2012 election cycle. Any denomination can cause a huge sea change as seen in recent Presidential campaigns. Nearly half the donors to President Obama's reelection campaign in 2011 gave $200 or less, more than double the proportion seen in 2007, according to the analysis from the Campaign Finance Institute. By contrast, only 9 percent of donors to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney came from the lowest end of the Policy at Play Growing an Impactful Voice with PalletPAC By Patrick Atagi 10 PalletCentral • March-April 2019 CAPITOL HILL CORNER

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