AEACGR: History

From Executive Committee Meeting Minutes

Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee in Chicago, IL, April 24, 2009
Committee on Government Relations (Abraham (chair), Rebecca Blank, Deaton, Catherine Eckel, Hall, Moffitt, Charles Plott, Richard Schmalansee, Charles Schultze, and James Smith) produced a mission statement for an Association government relations officer, a description of expected duties to be performed by the person hired as the Association’s part-time Washington representative, and text for a job listing for the position. The documents were reviewed and approved. Advertising to fill the Washington representative position is planned for May 2009, interviews for June and July, and hiring for fall 2009. The documents are posted on the Association’s website.

During the discussion it was reiterated that the Washington representative would not advocate for particular economic policies, but rather would attend to the professional interests of economists. It was recognized that this effort by the Association would require constant vigilance and oversight by the Committee on Government Relations and the Executive Committee. If adequate interest in oversight cannot be maintained, the experiment will be discontinued.

Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee in San Francisco, CA, January 2, 2009
The Ad Hoc Committee on Government Relations
(Deaton). The Committee (Deaton (Chair), Abraham, Collins, and Moffitt) recommended that: (1) an Association Committee on Government Relations be established; (2) the Committee’s charge would be to represent the Association in Washington, DC, and other locations around the country in issues of government and public affairs where the legitimate interest of the Association is involved, providing that the activities of the Committee and any individuals or organizations it may hire to assist it be consistent with the charter and bylaws of the Association; and (3) the Committee constitute itself as a Search Committee to identify and employ a qualified person or persons for Washington representation.

The discussion recognized that a Washington representative primarily would collect information about issues that might be pertinent to the Committee’s charge, that the representative’s main responsibility would be coordination, that Washington representation will require substantial time and effort from the Executive Committee and other professional economists, that the Committee would meet regularly by conference call, and that under no circumstances should the Committee commit the Association to a position on a policy issue. It was recommended that members of the Committee on Economic Statistics who are not government employees be considered prospective members of the Committee on Government Relations because of the Association’s intense interest in economic data. It was VOTED to adopt the Ad Hoc Committee’s recommendations.

Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee in Chicago, IL, April 27, 2008 Report on Washington Representation (Siegfried). Although the Association does not engage in advocacy of particular economic policies or partisan positions, there may occur matters of legitimate general interest to the economics profession—maintaining or improving support for economic research and its infrastructure—that it should promote. Accordingly, at the previous meeting, the Secretary-Treasurer was asked to explore opportunities and costs of increasing the Association’s representation in Washington to promote economics research and its infrastructure. He described three representation models: retain a professional government relations organization; directly employ a full-time professional government relations representation; or hire a full- or part-time economist to represent the interests of the economics profession.

Increased Washington representation would require active Executive Committee participation to delineate the Association’s legitimate relevant professional interests. Any Association representative must understand what is and is not a legitimate professional interest. For example, efforts by some disciplinary associations to increase their discipline’s visibility are less essential to economists, who are visible to the public as members of the FED’s Board of Governors, the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, advisors to presidential candidates, and columnists for widely read newspapers and magazines, as well as recipients of a Nobel Prize. To establish the goals of representation, the Association might establish a Science Policy or Public Affairs Committee to meet regularly with representatives and establish science policy goals.

A 501(c)(3) organization like the Association may “lobby” if the activity is “insubstantial.” Essentially, insubstantial means $225,000 plus five percent of annual expenditures exceeding $1.5 million. Currently, this would be about $480,000 per year. Allowing a safety margin, and accounting for contributions to the Consortium of Social Science Associations implies a limitation for the Association of about $400,000 for 2008.

After a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of expanding the Association’s efforts to promote economic research and infrastructure, it was decided to ask Abraham, Collins, Deaton, and Moffitt to draft a charge for a Science Policy or Public Affairs Committee that might guide such an effort, and report at the next meeting.

Minutes of the Meeting of the Executive Committee in New Orleans, LA, January 3, 2008
The Ad Hoc Committee on the Association’s Advocacy Role
(Rogoff). Rogoff reported that the Committee (Rogoff, chair; Katharine Abraham, Gary Stern, John Taylor, and Sidney Winter) had mixed views on the wisdom of increasing the Association’s role as an advocate for economics research. He noted that the share of economics funding within the National Science Foundation had declined from about 1 percent in 1980 to about 0.4 percent in 2007. The Association currently advocates for economics research funding through its membership in the Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA). The Committee suggested that the Association might focus on improving the provision of economic statistics, provide a link on its Web site to the COSSA Web site, and add an annual session to the meetings aimed at explaining the value of economics research. After an extended discussion of whether the Association should expand its advocacy for economics research and if and how that might conflict with the Association’s charter, it was VOTED to ask the Secretary-Treasurer to explore further the opportunities and costs of increased Association representation in Washington, DC, for the purpose of communicating the value of economics research and its supporting infrastructure.