Trump neglects industry associations in favor of CEOs

1 February 2017. By Adam Sigal.

Donald Trump’s White House is changing how government is receiving input from companies, leaving the traditionally influential Washington industry associations feeling a bit neglected.

Industry associations have long been the voice of corporations in Washington DC, whether or not they are formal lobbying organizations. They work to highlight regulatory concerns, do research that supports industry goals, and provide opportunities for lawmakers to interact with representatives of businesses.

Even before taking office, however, President Trump prided himself on his direct contact with chief executives. Since taking office, the president has held four large meetings of CEOs, all from companies with nationally recognizable names.

In an announcement during Trump’s first week in office, the White House said that meetings with business leaders are important to cut through the noise and understand how the government can ease the regulatory burden. No such announcement was made about industry associations, and no similar meetings have taken place.

Many associations are completely cut off from the White House, receiving neither the access nor the communication they had become accustomed to under prior administrations.

Trump’s scattershot approach to individual executives is splintering companies in similar sectors and interfering with the formation of unified strategies.

A representative from a DC-based tech organization told MLex that CEOs who are members of his organization do not ask his advice before taking meetings at the White House.

The diminished role of these business organizations, felt even by Republican-leaning associations, is creating new challenges.

By selectively issuing invitations to large companies, the White House sends the message that it is more concerned about their interests. As companies are seemingly singled out based on whether their names are recognizable in an average American household, less recognizable companies stand to be left in the cold.

Companies that used to coordinate strategies are now competing for attention, and many are left wondering how they can get included in the next round of invitations. Small and medium businesses are concerned they will have a harder time getting the government to respond to their concerns.

At least one industry association, however, is not yet concerned. “It’s in the early days,” the association’s spokesman said with a smile.

	Eliot Gao