It was 11:14 pm on Monday, February 22nd, when I received a text message from a friend Justin Cornett asking me to give him a call when I have a moment. I had a hunch what he wanted, given the photo I had just jokingly replied to which was posted on his personal Facebook page of his new credentials indicating he’s now a “lobbyist.” I always say, there’s no time like the present to discuss issues that affect my fellow Tennesseans, so I gave him a call and it turned out that my hunch was right. In fact, another friend named David reached out earlier in the day and asked me to also connect him to a certain State Representative. I know that may sound pompous, but it’s not uncommon for those who are active in politics, even at a local level to have personal contacts with a slew of elected officials and share them among other like-minded individuals who are trying to make a difference.
They’re Making a Difference
Okay, my introductory paragraph may not have been one that grabs you and pulls you into the article. However, I was hoping that the vagueness that came with leaving the State Representative unnamed would intrigue you, making you want to find out if we discussed corrupt politicians in Nashville, some shady backroom deal, or outright espionage. Sorry to disappoint, but this isn’t the “Pelican Brief,” or a spy novel, it’s a simple article that I felt compelled to write regarding Justin’s most recent venture as Co-founder of a unique 501(c)4 named “For All Tennessee,” where he’s serving as President & Board Chairman. The organization’s stated goal is to “mobilize communities around policies that empower people and limit government intervention.” Justin and Josh Eakle, who is the other Co-Founder, is serving as the Executive Director & Board Member, have truly put themselves out there for the greater good. I hope others will have their backs by supporting this organization.
Like Justin, my friend David is also a lobbyist, but David is what is called a “Citizen Lobbyist.” This means he’s a private citizen who feels strongly about certain issues and works tirelessly on them, researching and studying precedence and drafting legislation to present to members of the Tennessee General Assembly on his own time and dime. In other words, he lobbies elected officials without representing a given organization or profession, etc. as well as not receiving compensation for his time and efforts. This is exceedingly rare, especially for someone to devote as much personal time and resources to an effort as David does. I believe we owe him a great debt of gratitude. Check out his latest article regarding his success in Nashville, even though I couldn’t connect him with that State Representative, he was still able to come through.
Justin on the other hand is what’s known as a “Professional Lobbyist,” given at some point, he will receive some form of compensation and he represents a legal entity. Not that Justin hasn’t done a lot of work as a “Citizen Lobbyist” like David, he has. This experience has allowed him to form certain bonds and friendships in Nashville that other mostly professional lobbyists simply don’t have. Couple that with the fact Justin is now lobbying for many of the same issues, except he’s now backed by For All Tennessee, which will only grow in stature and prestige.
I know you may be saying to yourself, great, here are another one of these organizations who seem to always want my money, but never really answer to me. However, unlike the last century, and for the first two decades of this century, the approach that For All Tennessee is taking has the promise to transform the way lobbying is done for the better moving forward.
Instead of being a one-issue organization or lobbying on behalf of special interest, For All Tennessee is unique, in that they lobby on behalf of the things everyday people who support the organization decide they should lobby for. This means you can personally play a positive role in changing the way issues and policies are advocated for. For All Tennessee answers the question, “what can one person do,” it also takes away the excuse of not having the time to be politically active.
You Can Make a Difference
Many times, people say, “what can one person do,” this is usually because they feel hopeless or helpless, or more often it’s an excuse to not get involved. However, if you’re one of those types who’ve always wanted to help, but never had the time or you just didn’t know how to go about it, then For All Tennessee might be your answer. This also goes for anyone who donates to any of the great one-issue advocacy organizations out there. But, unlike those worthy organizations, For All Tennessee gives everyone who donates $60 annually to directly support the organization a vote on what they advocate for. They also allow donors the ability to donate directly to the issues they want to see more advocacy for.
Before you start recalling all the negative stereotypes of what a lobbyist is and what they do, I ask you to take a moment and read up on what For All Tennessee is about. This organization isn’t some lobbying firm for some corporation, big money foundation, or some other special interest entity. The only “special interest,” this organization has is you and the issues you want them to advocate for. This is truly a unique approach to lobbying, which could potentially change the way issues are advocated for in the 21st century.
The 21st Century Approach to Lobbying
“Building a better Tennessee, for all,” is the main goal of this new upstart nonprofit, which was created to “mobilize communities around policies that empower people and limit government intervention.” It’s “a place where people can come together on issues, notwithstanding politics.” This new 501(c)4’s “seeks to democratize the traditional model by allowing” members, instead of huge donors, to prioritize their lobbying agenda “through their votes and their donations.” It’s important to remember, they’re not looking to “support policy that exclusively benefits politicians, political parties, or big money; only promoting policy that directly empowers individuals.”
This approach is an “independent” one, but it’s certain they’ll “only support laws that solve problems and avoid laws that exist to further political agendas.” This approach is also meant to force the government to be responsible, given the fact that “all government funding comes from the taxpayer. The government should spend money responsibly, look for ways to reduce spending, and not burden future generations with long-term debt for short-term gains.” For All Tennessee is all about helping every Tennessean equally, and will not discriminate based on “race, religion, orientation, affiliation, or location” etc., they believe everyone “should have equal access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
They’re also “guided by principles, not politics!” As Justin said in our phone conversation that they’ll “only support laws that empower people and limit government, by only supporting “legislation that addresses real problems, not political agendas.” The fact is, and it’s one that I support is, “local governments are more accountable and responsive to their constituents.” Which is why they’ll only “support reasonable efforts to shift power from the federal and state government to the local counties and municipalities.” After all, “an unaccountable government is a breeding ground for corruption and fraud.” Which is why they “support efforts to ensure the government is held accountable by those it governs.” Finally, “government can’t be improved without first understanding how it operates and what problems we face.” That’s why they “support efforts to increase the public’s access to government activities and data.”
I hope you’ll take a moment to read more about them, if you feel inclined to help their efforts, feel free to donate what you can.
Check ‘em Out!
Note: My personal endorsement of “For All Tennessee,” doesn’t necessarily reflect the position of iVoteTennessee or iVoteAmerica.
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