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Politically correct Featured

12:07pm EDT November 28, 2001
J. Donald Mottley served four terms as a representative for a Dayton-area district in the Statehouse.

He fought legislation that added to the tax burden of business owners and worked to lower income taxes as chairman of the state's Ways & Means Committee. He's back in the private sector now with his former law firm, Taft, Stettinus & Hollister, which in January merged with Cleveland's Kelley, McCann & Livingstone.

Mottley is the managing director of the firm's new venture, Focused Capital Solutions, essentially a lobbying and government relations branch of the firm. Government relations is an increasingly popular offering for law firms with clients who need to stay aware of federal and state legislation that will affect their business but who don't have the time or resources to lobby lawmakers themselves.

"Government decisions affect business all the time," Mottley says. "Everything from tax policies to health insurance issues to regulatory issues, like environmental issues. But often if your company is smaller or highly specialized, there won't be a trade association to represent your interests."

That said, it might not be as difficult as you think to exact some influence with your state or federal lawmaker.

"I can tell you from my own experience as a legislator that it's a lot more effective to hear from an individual business person," Mottley says. "An organization can tell you about the concern, but to hear from the constituent in your district, it has a lot more impact."

Here are Mottley's tips for letting your voice be heard in the Statehouse and all the way up to Capitol Hill.

Join up

There are thousands of trade organizations bending the ears of politicians. There's a reason for that: They work. Aside from the financial contributions these groups make, lawmakers know these organizations represent a lot of people who have a lot of what politicians want -- votes.

These associations also send out newsletters and literature about bills that are in the works that could affect your business, which is a lot better than reading about it the newspaper after the bill has been passed or rejected when you can't do anything about it.

Don't drop by

You think your day's busy? Lawmakers have more meetings and talk to more people in a day than you could imagine, so don't just phone or drop by your local representative's office hoping to catch him or her in a spare moment.

Make an appointment well in advance, and keep it brief.

Be prepared

When you get the appointment, make the most of your time by discussing a specific bill or problem you're having with which the legislator could help, Mottley says.

"Don't just say, 'I want less taxes,'" he says. "Say, 'Vote against this bill because it affects my business or my industry in such a way.' That's much more helpful than saying you're opposed to more regulation or taxes." How to reach: Taft, Stettinus & Hollister LLP, (216) 241-2838

Morgan Lewis Jr. (mlewis@sbnnet.com) is senior reporter at SBN Magazine.

Resource list

Here's a list of how to reach the people getting paid by your tax dollars.

If you have offices in another part of the state or country, government Web sites can help you track down what state and federal districts those offices are located in. Also check out a popular federal trade organization, the NFIB, and a local one, the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

To search a database of 5,000 trade organizations, go to the Concept Marketing Group Web site at www.marketingsource.com/associations

Ohio House of Representatives
77 South High St.
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-3357
www.house.state.oh.us

Ohio Senate
77 South High St.
Columbus, OH 43215
(614) 466-4900.
www.senate.state.oh.us

U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
(202) 224-3121
www.house.gov

U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
(202) 224-3121
www.senate.gov

National Federation of Independent Business
600 Maryland Ave. S.W.
Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20024
Phone: (202) 554-9000
Fax: (202) 554-0496
www.nfib.org

Ohio Chamber of Commerce
230 East Town St.
P.O. Box 15159
Columbus, OH 43215-0159
Phone: (614) 228-4201 or (800) 622-1893
Fax: (614) 228-6403
www.ohiochamber.com