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December 18, 2018
Five Questions with George Cooper, Forbes Tate Partners
What is Forbes Tate Partners’ role with WE ARE GOLF?
My partners and I serve WE ARE GOLF’s interests in a few different primary ways in Washington, D.C. We try to serve as the organization’s eyes and ears on a day-to-day basis to make sure golf’s interests are aware of opportunities and threats in a timely fashion. Unfortunately, in the last several years we have had to spend significant time sniffing out unfriendly actions in Congress directed at golf but because we’ve learned about them quickly, we’ve avoided surprises we couldn’t deal with. Being able to turn to WAG’s collective advocacy capacity when we’ve learned of attempted anti-golf moves has been a game changer in recent years for the golf industry. Aside from providing up-to-the-minute situational awareness for WAG in D.C., we are constantly endeavoring to help WAG carry out its mission to dispel myths about golf in the country’s capital that can lead to ill-informed legislative and policy moves. WAG produces compelling and substantive information for us to conduct myth busting.
How is golf doing when it comes to decisions being made in Washington, D.C. these days?
Since WAG was established in 2009, golf has come a long way when it comes to correcting negative assumptions about the game in D.C. and we’re proud to be doing our part to help on that front. As a general matter, Congress is not passing much legislation these days other than what they must. Despite the relatively low volume of legislation coming out of Congress, we must remain ever vigilant.
From time-to-time, we do discover negative legislative language aimed at golf. Typically, a member or Congressional staff has made a negative assumption about the worthiness of the game for inclusion in a piece of legislation, so they punitively single golf out. These instances are becoming rarer, but they still happen. Hopefully, we will turn a corner and find ourselves able to have more conversations about legislation that is explicitly aimed at helping golf and golf-dependent businesses. We’re having more of them but the defensive needs for golf in D.C. have certainly not gone away.
Why do you think golf’s standing in D.C. has improved?
It’s simple: More people are providing more accurate information about golf to more decision makers in Washington. Getting the facts to the right people is critical but it is almost as important to have the right people delivering the information. Those of us who lobby for golf on a daily basis can be effective but there is no substitute for a Member of Congress, staffers or administration officials hearing directly from people in the golf world. Whether they are a superintendent, club manager, owner, equipment manufacturer, golf professional or other position in the golf industry, the best voices to change attitudes on golf in Washington are those of people whose livelihoods are tied to the game – that’s two million Americans! Backing perspectives up about golf’s $84.1 billion economy and nearly 24 million participants is also critical and WAG is regularly producing the right information on this in a compelling form for all of us to use.
What do you think WAG needs to be focused on for National Golf Day on May 1, 2019?
To best answer that question we’ll need to sort out the agenda of the Democrats who will now be controlling the House. It is likely there will be moves made on issues important to golf that we’ll need to get ahead of and make sure the best golf informed decisions are being made as they contemplate bills which affect the game’s interests as determined by WAG and its Board. In general, we’ll need to be highly focused on tax legislation as we seek to extract so-called “sin list” language from the tax code that dates to the 1970’s. We’ll be coordinating closely with the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America regarding possible moves on environmental policy affecting course management. We’ll continue to support the Sports & Fitness Industry Association’s work to get the PHIT Act passed. Labor issues such as seasonal worker rules will also no doubt be at the top of the WAG coalition’s priority list.
What do you and your colleagues like most about working with WAG?
Well, I think for a lot of us, getting to advocate for a game we love is something for which we’re very thankful. We often play together, despite the degrees of success and ability. I think our enthusiasm comes through when we’re talking to people in D.C. about golf and WAG. Often, in a given Congressional office, we encounter Members and staffers who play, and it is a great way to start a lobbying conversation.