Respect on the Hill
ACA representatives take a day to meet with legislators and enhance ACA’s visibility in Washington.
3/13/2019 1:00 PM
Editor’s note: This "Throwback Thursday" article is a reprint from the April 1995 issue of Collector magazine featuring a report by Paul Williams, ACA’s then-manager of Federal Government Relations, discussing ACA's “National Legislative Conference."
Twenty-five years ago, many members of Congress were unfamiliar with ACA International. But, thanks to lobbying efforts by ACA and its members, today the association and its goals are more clearly understood among leaders on the Hill.
At this year’s National Legislative Conference, ACA General Counsel Basil J. Mezines said he was stopped by Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Ore., on the way to an ACA meeting in 1994. Packwood said, “Are you going to ACA’s National Legislative Conference? Boy, is that a great organization. When ACA members come into my office, they have one thing they want. They don’t sit down and read the whole legislative agenda for the Congress and start talking about this, that and the other. They do it right.”
On the Hill
I had an opportunity in February to accompany Mary Sander, of West Bend, Wis. W.O. Eklund, of Janesville, Wis. and ACA President-Elect Thomas Haag of Madison as they visited with their congressional representatives. Camera in hand, we braved the arctic windchill and headed to Capitol Hill.
Our first stop was with Bob Cook, legislative director for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis. Cook was quite familiar with ACA. He knew what ACA stood for and what our legislative aims were for this session. He mentioned ACA’s federal legislative consultant, Curtis Prins, by name.
Sander began her presentation. She said, “I want to thank you again for your support of our garnishment efforts last year. This year, we are here because we’ve got some problems with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.”
She said that collection agencies support the law, but had some problems with ambiguous court rulings about certain requirements on dunning notices, and that some consumer attorneys were using these ambiguities for their own financial gain.
“There are some attorneys out there who are subverting the legislative intent of the Act by taking a couple of technical aspects of the law and suing collection agencies by the hundreds,” she said. “What they are doing is saying ‘we are suing you—why don’t you give us $1,000 and we will go away.”
She told Cook about attorneys pitching quick fixes to consumers with debt problems on early morning television. “Call us, and all your money problems will be solved. We’re not afraid to sue,” the ads say.
Eklund and Sander mention that a bill being sponsored by Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., would help address the industry problems with the FDCPA. Eklund explained two of the most important amendments and how they would work.
Sander then asked for the congressman’s support, which Cook promised. After that, Sander then gave Cook a series of letters from the congressman’s constituents asking for the same support. They briefly mentioned some of ACA’s other position papers, signed the Congressional Guest Book and posed for pictures. Then we were off to visit with another member of the Wisconsin Congressional Delegation.
All told, we visited eight offices. The next day, Sander, Haag, and Eklund had breakfast with three congressmen, who asked specific questions about the proposed amendments.
Frankly, I was surprised at how well these ACA members were known by members of Congress and their staff. Case in point: Rep. Toby Roth, R-Wis., passed by on the way to a floor vote, greeted Sander by name and paused briefly to pose for pictures. Moreover, several aides recognized the constituents who had given Sander letters requesting support for ACA’s legislative initiatives.
Mezines was right. ACA is well respected on Capitol Hill.
ACA’s advocacy efforts are only growing today and connecting with members of Congress is a significant part of that mission. Join our staff and your fellow members for the opportunity to meet with your legislators and hear updates on regulations and laws on Capitol Hill during the 2019 Washington Insights Fly-In May 14-16 in Washington, D.C.
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Pictured above: Bob Cook, legislative director for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., greets Mary Sander, West Bend, Wis.
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