Risk & Compliance

Getting Your Request on Obama’s Agenda

There's no shortage of industry pleas for special consideration during the President-elect's first 100 days.
Sarah JohnsonNovember 11, 2008

Trade groups see next January 20, President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration day, as their version of Christmas Day. So they’re getting their corporate wish lists ready now. And by petitioning him before he takes office, they hope to see their pet projects addressed in his first three months as commander in chief.

Never mind that the senator already has a full agenda on his plate (fixing the economy, as his stated number-one goal, is likely to take awhile), these groups are not holding back in their demands for the incoming president.

“While [Sen. Obama’s advisers are] busy trying to lower expectations for a 100-day agenda, we prefer to raise them,” admitted Wayne Crews in his own list to the senator, submitted as vice president for policy for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a group promoting free markets and limited government. Among CEI’s 42 requests are a rollback of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, which it calls “overly aggressive”; extending stock options to more workers; a definition of “corporate social responsibility”; changes in labor regulations; and encouragement of “innovation in credit availability.”

Indeed, business-related requests for Sen. Obama range from broad appeals for things already high on his to-do list — such as health-care reform — to niche areas of the corporate world that may be relatively unfamiliar to the senator in his Senate experience so far — such as FAS 157, the Financial Accounting Standard Board’s rule for fair-value measurements.

Many of the demands claim that they fit into Sen. Obama’s economic agenda, because they seek to help turn the financial markets around. William Isaac, a former FDIC chairman, recently told Accountancy Age that the senator should wipe out fair-value accounting immediately. An outspoken opponent of FAS 157, Isaac blames the financial crisis on the two-year-old standard that explains how companies should measure financial assets and liabilities that have been marked to market. “If I were President-elect Obama, I would make that my first order of business – even before I took office,” he told the UK publication. “Then we could look at other issues.”

Taking a more collective, bipartisan view is the unlikely partnership between AARP, the Business Roundtable, National Federation of Independent Businesses, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The groups recently sent a joint letter to Obama asking him to address changes to the U.S. health-care system during his first weeks in office.

Other groups looking out for various business interests have been more subdued in asking the president-elect for specific reforms. Soon after last week’s election, Financial Executives International requested that both he and the new Congress “work closely with the financial community to develop policies which promote consumer and market confidence, increased capital investment, economic growth and stability, and job creation.”

To be sure, there are far more demands on Sen. Obama’s agenda than can be honored. And not everyone agrees on what his priorities should be. Acting comptroller general Gene Dodaro tried to help the president-elect prioritize through a list of “urgent issues” outlined in a Nov. 6 letter. Among them are military affairs, the country’s security, food safety, oversight of financial institutions, the retirement of the space shuttle, and the transition to all-digital TV broadcasting.

4 Powerful Communication Strategies for Your Next Board Meeting