Groups Lobbying for a Shoutout in the SOTU

January 23, 2012

By Kate Ackley, Roll Call Staff

The White House has been reaching out to unions, interest groups and other downtown stakeholders for the past few weeks, soliciting data points and political feedback as it puts the finishing touches on Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

At the same time, industry groups pushing their agendas have filled up the president’s inbox with plenty of unsolicited proposals. After all, what lobbyist wouldn’t want to take a red pen to the State of the Union?

Getting a mention of a signature cause can catapult the issue to the top of the agenda. The State of the Union will help set the debate in Congress this year and has far-reaching political ramifications for the upcoming elections.

“We’ve had a number of meetings with various White House officials over the course of the last couple weeks,” said Chuck Loveless, director of legislation for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. “They wanted to hear what we have to say.”

Some K Streeters said they were reluctant to discuss publicly what issues they were pressing the White House on for fear of setting them up for failure if President Barack Obama does not mention it Tuesday. Others, however, were eager to share the agenda items they want the president to press for.

Terry O’Neill, president of the National Organization for Women, said she’s hopeful that, because the White House reached out to women’s organizations in advance of the speech, Obama will touch on some of the issues NOW cares about, such as unemployment and poverty, reproductive health and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

“We are under no illusions,” she said. “I don’t expect him to be perfect on our issues.”

NOW plans to compare an open letter it sent to the president with the text of the address as part of a “massive voter education and voter awareness and mobilization effort for 2012,” she said. “If we support someone who’s not perfect, we can take a step toward achieving our goals.”

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