Still, it’s been noticeably absent from the ad pages in Beltway publications, and the group’s top lobbyist was not present at a Tuesday House Judiciary Committee hearing on the online tax issue.
RILA, which represents megastores and big brands such as Walmart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., had three lobbyists and two staffers on hand. The International Council of Shopping Centers had five lobbyists in the room.
The shopping center group has advertised aggressively in Beltway media since October, even with no clear legislative vehicle.
“We put our resources into different areas of the fight,” said David French, the NRF’s chief lobbyist. “We spend our money doing what I would characterize as conservative voter education.”
“While we may not have been making as loud of noise or spending as much money, we are, and have been, consistently beating the drum,” added Katie Wilson, spokeswoman for the NRF.
All three groups may have the same goal, but their strategies are vastly different and sometimes at odds. The NRF has focused primarily on rallying local retailers and connecting constituents with lawmakers, while RILA was instrumental in wooing the support of Republican governors.
The legislation’s prospects hinge on the outcome of the November elections not so much because retailers run the risk of losing key supporters in Congress, but because Republican victories could halt all legislative momentum until January, the lobbyists said.
“It all depends if they decide they are going to make sausage,” said Jason Brewer, a spokesman for RILA, who sat sandwiched between lobbyists for J. C. Penney & Co. and Target at Tuesday’s hearing.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.