BY TOM YAZDGERDI
Most folks, including many of our members, don’t know that AFSA has a political action committee (PAC). Only when I was elected in 2019 as the AFSA State Department vice president did I become aware of it. In the public eye, PACs tend to be viewed negatively; they are seen as hyperpartisan or awash in big-donor money. But that certainly is not the case with AFSA-PAC.
Established in 2002, AFSA-PAC does not rely on member dues or solicit contributions from anyone but our activeduty members and retirees. The funding comes entirely from voluntary member donations. And, of course, the PAC abides by all federal election laws, such as not making disbursements to candidates that exceed the established monetary limits.
According to its bylaws, AFSA-PAC does not make contributions to state, county, or local/municipal elections, or to presidential races. Most important, AFSA-PAC is scrupulously nonpartisan in that it contributes equally to Democrats and Republicans who support the Foreign Service, full stop.
AFSA-PAC’s focus is on the appropriating and authorizing committees with jurisdiction over Foreign Service management issues, FS staffing, and general foreign affairs matters. (See full bylaws at https://afsa.org/afsa-pac-bylaws.)
Contributing to U.S. senators and representatives has given AFSA a seat at the table. I literally had that experience when I attended a recent fundraising dinner for a senator who is a strong supporter of the Foreign Service. At the fundraiser, each of us was given a chance to introduce ourselves and then raise issues of importance to our organizations.
Surrounded by high-powered lobbyists representing various industry groups, I definitely felt like the odd man out. But when my turn came to speak, I had the opportunity to tell those assembled what AFSA is all about and what our top priorities are.
The senator in question already knew. He promised to fight for career ambassadorial nominees unfairly caught up in Senate holds that usually have nothing to do with the nominees.
He also said he would push for passage of the Senate version of the State Department Authorization Act of 2023, which has a number of significant provisions for our members, when the House and Senate meet in conference later in the year.
I would like to thank those who have donated to AFSA-PAC and share my view of its importance. Being able to support those in Congress who believe that the United States must have an appropriately funded and staffed Foreign Service is truly indispensable.
While there is already a bipartisan core of support for the U.S. Foreign Service in both houses of Congress, AFSA will continue to build on that support with further outreach.
As we approach 2024, an election year and the 100th anniversary of both the modern Foreign Service and AFSA, PAC funding will help put us in a position to advocate for policies that help all our members.
These policies range in scope from keeping our Service professional and nonpartisan to protecting our pensions and advocating for benefits that make the Foreign Service more attractive, especially for our members at the lower end of the pay scale.
The more PAC funding AFSA has, the greater the capacity to engage with additional representatives and senators and their staffs who either pay little attention to the Foreign Service or who may not have a clear idea about what we do for the American people.
They should hear about the role of the Foreign Service protecting American citizens abroad and advancing U.S. interests in some of the most difficult and dangerous places in the world, and often far away from loved ones.
In other words, the PAC helps AFSA get its foot in the door so that we can tell our story—which is a proud and compelling one that deserves respect and support.
If you have any questions on specific PAC activities, please contact AFSA Treasurer and AFSA-PAC Chair John O’Keefe at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I welcome hearing your views at email@example.com, on this subject or any other matter of interest.
Wishing you and your family a joyous Thanksgiving!
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