The ABA’s Governmental Affairs Office (GAO) was established in 1957 to monitor legislative action affecting lawyers. It has since evolved into a full-blown lobbying department with 10 federally registered lobbyists who actively advocate for the adoption of ABA policies by Congress and federal agencies.
GAO uses the traditional tools of the lobbyist’s trade: direct communications (both written and through meetings) between GAO legislative counsels and government officials; advocacy materials; a daily summary and monthly newsletter to keep ABA members current on relevant policy developments; coalitions; and a grassroots advocacy network comprised of ABA member volunteers. However, one traditional lobbying tool that the ABA does not use is a political action committee or PAC. The ABA has no PAC and makes no political financial contributions.
You can help us save Public Service Loan Forgiveness:
1. Record a Video
2. Snap a Selfie
3. Mention a Senator
GAO started using Twitter over six years ago to push out both advocacy messages and other important developments that might interest our grassroots members. Yet, some issues require a broader campaign. Last year, the White House proposed in its FY16 Budget to substantially cut the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, and the House of Representatives approved a budget resolution that presumed the program’s total repeal. Since its inception in 2007, PSLF has provided student loan borrowers a method to reduce debt loads in exchange for a 10-year commitment to work in public service jobs. The ABA was a leader in the creation of PSLF, and we know that the public service careers of thousands of young lawyers and students now depend on the program. The media, however, has characterized the program in unflattering terms. We realized that constituent stories needed to reach the Hill, and fast.
In response, GAO developed a groundbreaking campaign that relied on storytelling generated through Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. The ABA’s “Save #Loan4Giveness” campaign, branded with creative logos, graphics, and the #Loan4Giveness hashtag, encouraged participants of the program to share their personal stories with their representatives. Many ABA entities such as the Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division placed prominent notices on their homepages and conducted their own social media outreach to raise awareness. Unveiled in August 2015, the campaign has already reached an estimated 5 million people, with 2.3 million impressions on Twitter alone. Hundreds of compelling personal stories were uploaded and tagged to their members of Congress, explaining how this program is vital to many individuals and public service law offices.
The number of people engaged through social media exceeded our expectations, and we gained recognition in the national community. This summer, the ABA’s Save #Loan4Giveness program will receive an award from a national public affairs organization for the most innovative grassroots campaign.
While the first session of the 114th Congress wrapped up without congressional action to interfere with the loan forgiveness program, the threat to PSLF is not over; neither is the advocacy work of the ABA. Both the president and the House Budget Committee earlier this year repeated their threats to eliminate or reduce PSLF for the upcoming fiscal year. In response, GAO continues to expand the Save #Loan4Giveness campaign, and we will soon unveil more ways for students, young professionals and public service employers to get involved in the fight to save PSLF. The ABA is committed to doing everything in its power to save a program that is so vitally important to law students, lawyers and public service employers around the country.
To get involved, visit: www.americanbar.org/advo…