ABA Washington Update: Stepping Up Our Political Engagement

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By Rob Engstrom, Chief Political Strategist, ABA 

Go vote. Every election we hear about the importance of voting. And it is extremely important. But as an industry that touches every community in America, I’d argue that bankers need to do more than just vote; we must be politically engaged year-round, even and odd-numbered years.

Political engagement means so much more than just voting or giving to campaigns, though both are important ways to make your voice heard. Political engagement is a holistic approach that, when executed appropriately and thoughtfully, can make a big difference both inside and outsides the walls of government. 

ABA, state bankers associations and our members have helped build and defend the foundation of the American economy for nearly 150 years. Now we’re bringing our all-American values to the halls of Congress, standing with candidates and legislators of both parties that appreciate the critical role banks play in the economy.

Political engagement is about doing our part to keep the American dream within reach for bank customers, clients and communities.

To recognize and elevate the importance of political engagement, both as an organization and on behalf of bankers everywhere, ABA has fully integrated our BankPac, grassroots, independent expenditure and voter education efforts to speak with one voice under the ABA brand. To that end, we are:

• Launching a voter education effort ― the ABA Voter Education Fund — to grow our political profile by engaging in issue and candidate advocacy, polling, research and “get out the vote” efforts

• Establishing criteria for candidate support and outlining standards for engagement

• Expanding our grassroots infrastructure and preparing to mobilize as we near key milestones legislatively and politically

• Strategizing with our partners in the ABA-State Association Alliance, utilizing their boots on the ground for local efforts.

These are all opportunities for ABA members to be involved and we invite you to be a part. Of course, it all starts with your state bankers association. All politics in local and no one understands that ― or is a better local resource for you — than your state bankers association.

Engaging in these efforts is not about checking a box for each activity. It’s about finding strategic opportunities to use your resources and your voice to expand the banking industry’s political profile. BankPac, the Voter Education Fund and grassroots are important pieces of increasing our political presence and all allow opportunity for bankers to get involved. But we recognize that these components are not one-size-fits all. Each bank and each banker have different attributes that may allow them to interact with these opportunities differently. There is a place for every banker and every bank in these political engagement efforts.

So, how can you be a part? Reach out to ABA and your state bankers association to see how you are best placed to participate. For some, it may be joining BankPac; for others supporting voter education efforts; and for more still, it’s being a grassroots ambassador ― not just cultivating your own relationships with lawmakers, but educating your peers and employees about what’s happening in Washington, so that they get involved. 

Political engagement is more than a contribution in an election year or contacting your lawmaker during an important vote. Political engagement is developing and maintaining a constant presence in front of lawmakers and the public that shows bankers are here, we’re paying attention to what’s happening in the halls of government, and we’re actively involved in creating a civic environment that is helpful to the American economy. 

The banking industry represents two million employees and millions more customers. It’s time our political will and engagement match that. That’s what we’re doing at ABA and we invite you to be a part of it. Join us at aba.com/engage.

E-mail Rob Engstrom at rengstro@aba.com.


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