Missouri well represented in D.C.

15 MPAers attend Government Affairs Conference in March

Missouri was well represented at the Newspaper Association of America’s Government Affairs Conference in Washington, D.C., March 5-7. Fifteen Missouri newspaper people attended in addition to the NNA folks from Columbia. That was close to if not the most of any state represented.
Like last year, the weather cooperated, providing reasonably warm temperatures. The only challenge was the wind, which, on Saturday as we left (or tried to leave) closed Reagan National Airport.
Things were further complicated when the inbound plane that we were supposed to fly on encountered severe turbulence on approach. A flight attendant and one passenger were injured, and the plane was damaged to the point our flight was cancelled. That meant another long wait, a flight to Chicago where it was snowing, another wait, and finally the last leg to St. Louis, where we arrived about 11:30 p.m. That made for a long day for this old man.
The conference was good, with interesting speakers on Thursday, the traditional Capitol Hill visits Thursday afternoon, and tours/briefings at the State Department and the National Archives.
A highlight of the meeting was a session with Theodore Sorenson, former adviser to President John F. Kennedy. Now 80, Mr. Sorenson is frail but sharp as a tack. He shared some insights into the Kennedy years, including the Bay of Pigs and the standoff with the Soviet Union over missiles in Cuba. He was also free with his thoughts on the current administration and the Democrat Party fight for the Presidential nomination. He supports Barack Obama, by the way.
We were not able to see all of our representatives and senators, but we did meet with Sen. Claire McCaskill. She came out into the Senate anteroom from presiding over the Senate and spent close to 30 minutes discussing current legislation, answering our questions and commenting on the race for the Democrat presidential nomination. McCaskill, if you recall, was one of the first in Congress to endorse Sen. Obama, and she is lavish with her praise for him. She did mention that she is taking considerable heat from women’s advocacy groups for not supporting Sen. Clinton.
In another area, the weather did not cooperate in February for the AP/MPA Day at the Capitol. Sleet and freezing rain covered the Jeff City area the night before and made travel treacherous. About 80 brave souls did make the trek, however. They heard Gary Forsee, the new president of the University of Missouri system, talk about his plans.
The group also heard from all of the statewide officeholders who could get to Jeff City: Att. Gen. Jay Nixon, U.S. Rep. and candidate for governor Kenny Hulshof, State Auditor Susan Montee and Secretary of State Robin Carnahan. Unable to attend the meeting because of weather were State Treasurer Sarah Steelman and Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.
A wonderful lunch was served at the Governor’s Mansion, followed by comments from Gov. Matt Blunt. Then Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, House Minority Leader Paul LeVota and House Speaker Rod Jetton answered our questions.
The Government Affairs Conference and Day at the Capitol are two ways we can work with our elected officials to bring our message of open government directly to those who can make a difference. Plan to attend one or both of these important events next year.

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