Rubbing Elbows on Capitol Hill—A First-Timer’s Perspective

By Mark Soticheck, CPA, CGMA
Chief Operating Officer, NCACPA

“Starry-eyed” is how my CEO and fellow CPAs described me as we descended unto the United States Capitol in late May as part of AICPA’s Spring Council’s “Hill visits.” I have always loved Washington, DC, but to be there advocating on behalf of my profession, and with standing meetings with five sitting Congressmen, took my recent visit to a whole new level. Within my first hour “on the Hill” I mumbled “good morning” or “hello” to Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham, and Tim Kaine as they quickly made their way to and from what I am sure was a day full of meetings. WOW! After being rendered speechless, my next thought was… how did I wind up here?

To be completely honest, my initial expectations of our visit were set pretty low and consisted of standing in long, slow security lines, meeting and talking only to “staffers” that probably graduated 10 minutes ago, and witnessing firsthand the dysfunction of our government as portrayed in news and media these days.

However, as I left our nation’s capital I felt energized, invigorated, and dare I say it… hopeful. I had the opportunity to meet with two US Senators and three members of the House of Representatives all from North Carolina, and all of them were genuinely interested in our message and our concerns. My biggest takeaway from our meetings… my own disbelief at the scarce amount of time the men and women in Congress have to spend educating themselves, and the important role we can (and do, in some respects) play in helping them make more informed decisions. Back to the fun stuff…

We spent 15-20 uninterrupted minutes with Senator Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. If you are even remotely aware of the goings-on in the current administration, understand that these committee members are not twiddling their thumbs. Nevertheless, Senator Burr deftly switched from intelligence to tax reform effortlessly. We spoke on current proposals around BAT (Border Adjustment Tax), revocation of the AMT, simplifying state tax rules for an increasing mobile workforce, and the general tenor of Congress as to what was even possible. We received his candor, personal thoughts, and insight from the proverbial horse’s mouth. There was never the feeling of being rushed or dismissal of our issues, concerns, etc. Senator Burr provided us with undivided attention and his commitment to look into a few matters further.

In slight contrast, due to an unexpected vote by the House of Representatives (HOR), our schedule quickly changed and we were ushered underground, through the tunnels between the office buildings of the members of the HOR, directly into the US Capitol, which was an experience in and of itself. Moments after leaving the floor of the House, the aforementioned members of the House met us in a side room adorned with portraits of George Washington and other founding fathers. We quickly delved into the meat of the issues, with the simple goal of being concise and direct. They engaged in questions on the issues, getting down into details of tax reform legislation or the simplification of taxes for a mobile workforce with ease.

Oh, and Senator Tillis, no big deal… he only graciously spent his recess from a committee meeting to meet with us in the halls of the Senate. It was entertaining to see the press corps outside of the meeting room converse, trying to figure out who we were and why the Senator was talking to us.

Even more eye-opening than the discussions above was how each Congressman (Senator or Representative) always brought the issue(s) back to the impact on North Carolina and/or the citizens in North Carolina. In various discussions, it was interesting how these Congressmen actually reached back out to members of the NC General Assembly or Governor’s office on the potential impact of legislation on the state. The relationship with, and continued interest in, the goings-on in North Carolina helped me piece together how NCACPA’s efforts with elected officials in NC play a part on both the state and federal level.

Lastly, before this blog post resembles an autobiography, the other more impactful part of this journey was my firsthand experience of how the relationship of one key person in our delegation opened up so many doors for us. His casual nature, coupled with simply chatting with these individuals about issues in his community, de-mystified some secret code I believed to have existed before my trip. In short, I realized there was no reason I could not do the same thing or have the same impact to help my profession.

Mark Soticheck is Chief Operating Officer of NCACPA. As COO, Mark oversees day-to-day operations of the association’s many departments—member engagement, communications, professional development, and finance and administration. Mark also keeps a close pulse on NCACPA’s strategic initiatives, working closely with staff, board members, and volunteer leaders to develop and implement supporting projects and programs.