The Private Equity Council will continue to engage regularly with Capitol Hill lawmakers, as well as take proactive measures including the creation of a website to counter criticism and dispel myths about the industry, said Doug Lowenstein.
“The private part of private equity, as they say in Washington, is no longer operative,” Lowenstein said in New York this week at the PEI Media 2007 North American Private Equity Investor Relations & Communications Forum. It was Lowenstein’s debut speaking engagement as president of the lobbying group.
In Europe, private equity has acquired a negative reputation with the public, but in the US, public perception of the industry is relatively impartial and criticism is limited to a smaller, albeit influential group, he said.
“Much of the canvas remains blank,” Lowenstein said. And the Private Equity Council intends to make broad brushstrokes before someone else has a chance to paint a dark picture, he added.
It plans to broaden the debate beyond wealth creation and tax issues, by telling industry success stories about portfolio companies and returns made for limited partners like pension funds and universities. And getting the public to understand that private equity is a positive part of the domestic and international economy, will help to win their support on issues such as the current controversy surrounding carried interest taxations, he said.
The Private Equity Council is taking a number of measures to accomplish its goals.
It’s hiring various groups, such as Capitol Tax Partners, to help it monitor and lobby on relevant issues in Washington, DC.
It will also soon launch a website whose content will range from answers to frequently asked questions about the industry to public policy documents. It will ultimately include original research and white papers on topics relevant to private equity.
“The intention here is not just to write for financial professionals, it’s to write for a wide audience to talk about the contributions private equity makes to the US and global economies, and about who benefits from private equity,” says Robert Stewart, the Private Equity Council’s vice president for public affairs.
Stewart himself is part of the industry group’s strategy: since opening its doors in February, the Private Equity Council has bolstered its staff with industry veterans well-versed in Washington politics.
Lowenstein, as PEO has previously reported, founded and ran for 13 years the US video game lobbying group the Entertainment Software Association. His resume also includes stints as an executive vice president of strategic communications firm Robinson Lake Sawyer Miller (now Weber Shandwick), as a legislative director for Senator Howard Metzenbaum, and nine years as a journalist, six of which were spent in Washington.
Stewart previously ran his own firm, Crossfire Communications, and had been the senior vice president of Caesar’s Entertainment prior to its sale to Harrah’s. He also spent four of his 12 years as an LA Times journalist in the paper’s Washington bureau.
Rounding out the Private Equity Council’s executive management team is its vice president of government affairs Steve Judge, who previously held the same position for the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association and was a former Hill staffer.