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CPAPAC: How Does It Work for You?

Joanne S. Barry

Twelve years ago, the NYSSCPA Board of Directors voted to support the Uniform Accountancy Act (UAA), model legislation that would update the New York State law that regulates the practice of public accountancy through multiple provisions that affect almost every aspect of the profession: CPE, peer review, prelicensure experience, substantial equivalency, and CPA firm ownership. At the time, the state law had not been significantly updated in more than 50 years.

With the passage of UAA section 23 mobility earlier this year by the New York State Legislature (as of press time, the governor has not yet signed the bill into law), and the passage of the accountancy reform law in 2008, almost every provision that the Society board voted to support at that meeting 12 years ago—albeit with some modifications to that position over time—will have been passed by the state legislature. The work may have been done piecemeal, but we accomplished what we set out to do. These legislative successes may not have been possible if not for another vote the board took at that same meeting—to endorse the formation of a political action committee (PAC), which would be known as CPAPAC, to participate in New York's political process.

Some Society members may not be aware that the Society has a PAC or know what it does. That might be because the PAC is an organization separate from the NYSSCPA. While the NYSSCPA, as a 501(c)(6) organization, can lobby on its members' behalf, a PAC cannot; however, it is one of the most important tools in our advocacy toolkit. The PAC has a separate set of bylaws and a board of trustees that includes a representative from each of the Society's 15 chapters as well as the NYSSCPA president, president-elect, and immediate past president. The PAC has a sole purpose—to collect from members and CPA firms monetary donations that it will later distribute to the political campaign committees of New York elected officials or candidates who have been identified by the PAC trustees as supporters of the legislative goals of the NYSSCPA or who are in a position to promote the profession through legislation that protects the profession and the public trust. CPAPAC is truly nonpartisan. Contributions are never based on party affiliation; they are distributed only in places where the profession will ultimately benefit.

The Power of the PAC

In the past, I've spoken about the power of our collective voice as a CPA society. I have also asked you, our members, to think about what it means to be involved in your professional association. Contributing to CPAPAC is one of the ways to get involved. A single campaign contribution of $50 from a CPA to a political candidate does not make as much of an impact as a PAC that has a pool of $1.4 million to distribute to candidates, which is how much the PAC would have in its coffers if each of our 28,000 members donated $50 to it. Campaign contributions, including those to CPAPAC, are not tax deductible, but unlike individual donations to candidates, contributions that come directly from CPAPAC create a positive identification between NYSSCPA members and the candidate who receives that contribution. The strength of a PAC is directly related to its size. Imagine how strong we could be if we had just half of that $1.4 million in our PAC.

Unfortunately, contributions to CPAPAC dipped precipitously over the past several years, with donations down between 30% and 50% of previous levels. What will happen if donations to CPAPAC continue to decline? The answer is simple: Our influence in the political process in New York will wane. If you have contributed to CPAPAC in the past, have you done so this year?

While the current economic climate has led to a reduction in supplementary spending for many New Yorkers, a donation to CPAPAC should not be considered discretionary spending for Society members—it is essential to the empowerment of our profession in New York State. It is also important to know that a contribution to CPAPAC in no way duplicates any contributions to the AICPA's PAC. While the Society may advocate for CPAs on a national level, CPAPAC contributions are put to work closer to home—the PAC's focus is only on New York State legislators and statewide elected officers—governor, attorney general, and state comptroller. CPAPAC is clearly an important political tool—especially when paired with the Society's other advocacy efforts—but only if we leverage the Society's advocacy efforts with donations from the PAC. Make our voice heard in Albany: Donate to CPAPAC today via the contribution form available on the Society's website at www.nysscpa.org/legislative/cpapacform.pdf. Your profession needs you.

Joanne S. Barry. Publisher. The CPA Journal Executive Director, NYSSCPA jbarry@nysscpa.org.

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