CEO’s Corner: The Oval Office is Not The Apprentice Board Room

220px-Thomas_P_O'Neill_IIIAmericans will tune in tonight to the final presidential debate.  While voters should hear a debate on the many important topics that have gone unaddressed in previous debates, pre-debate shenanigans suggest that it may be more of the same with more discussion about the guests in attendance than the future of our nation.

Fox News Sunday anchor Chris Wallace will serve as the moderator for tonight’s debate, marking the first time in the network’s twenty-year history that a Fox News journalist has taken the helm of a general election presidential debate. Despite Fox News’ conservative reputation, expect Chris Wallace to press both candidates hard on hot-button issues such as foreign policy, national security and the economy, among others.

One thing is clear: the 2016 presidential election has been predictably unpredictable.  Over the course of the election, it seems as if a day doesn’t pass without some twist or turn sending the media, political establishment and electorate into a frenzy. The top of the ticket is affecting down ballot races as well, with control of the Senate – and potentially even the House of Representatives – also up for grabs. For most of the campaign, candidates have tried to walk a fine line with voters, navigating a polarized and volatile political climate. During these final remaining weeks and with early voting underway, voters and candidates must finally take a stand.

For many of my colleagues who are campaign veterans and former reporters, and even for casual observers, it’s easy to allow this election to be fully consuming. It fills the 24-hour news cycle on every level, even including the sports pages. And, while campaigns are always focused on Election Day, I think for this cycle we are all intensely counting down the days – 20 to be exact – until this spectacle is over and when we can comfortably check our Twitter and Facebook feeds again. While Election Day will produce clear winners and losers, it will not clear the air. Even though Hillary Clinton surpasses Donald Trump when it comes to favorability, neither of the candidates is broadly liked, as evidenced by a litany of polls conducted during the course of this election.

Historically, we fixate on the first hundred days of a new president’s administration. This election will demonstrate the special importance of the time period that precedes those first 100 days. Both parties will move at unprecedented speed to set their future course, place their personnel, and activate ground games to advance their agendas. There’s even a chance that if Congress flips, President Obama will be in a position to accomplish some final goals before he leaves office. By Inauguration Day, the playbook will have already been set.

For the new or returning House and Senate majorities, there will be a certain shakeup in committee leadership, making policy issues even more consequential. The Senate is currently comprised of 54 Republicans, 46 Democrats, meaning five seats are need to flip control and at present anywhere from six to eight Senate races are viewed as competitive. The House is made up of 246 Republicans, 187 Democrats with 30 seats needed to change control. There are more than 30 competitive House races, about half of which are toss-ups. In an unpredictable election year, anything is possible. And, the size of the new majority will directly impact the prospects of the next president’s policy agenda.

Among the policy priorities for 2017 that will likely see action are tax reform, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, banking reform, foreign trade, wages and jobs, and funding for transportation infrastructure. Each one brings opportunities and consequences for every corporation, institution and organization. Exercising your right to vote on November 8th is just plain commonsense. Before you cast a vote, think about what a vote for Donald Trump means for the future of democracy and the principles on which this great county has been built. Yesterday, President Barack Obama exacted his latest rebuke of Donald Trump’s behavior and once again questioned whether or not he truly understands the kind of temperament that is necessary as president.

“You start whining before the game’s even over?” President Obama said. “You don’t have what it takes to be in this job because there are a lot of times when things don’t go our way, or my way… I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes.”

As Mr. Trump prepares – or does not prepare – for tonight’s debate, I have one piece of advice to offer: it’s time to get serious about this election and understand that the behavior exhibited in The Apprentice Board Room is not fit for the Oval Office.

2017-2018 Massachusetts Legislative Look-Ahead

By Lindsay Toghill

Reliability iwebres_120403_oneill_lindsaytoghill-0138n state policies and regulations is a significant priority for any business, but especially so in Massachusetts, with an active Democratic Legislature that is historically interested in effecting social change.  Changes in taxation or employment regulations can have a significant impact on the future of business investment in the Commonwealth.

The tension between the business-friendly House of Representatives and more liberal Senate in the last legislative session resulted in a number of last-minute deals on items of interest to the business community, including an expanded renewable energy bill, a bill intended to help stimulate economic development, and regulation of ride-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft.

As we look toward a new legislative session, there are a number of items on the horizon that will significantly affect the business community and its bottom line.  In planning for 2017, it is important that all businesses take the following issues into account.

  • Taxation/Millionaire Tax – Proposed as a ballot question for the 2018 election cycle, the so-called “Millionaire Tax” would amend the Commonwealth’s Constitution to allow higher taxes on any personal earnings above one million dollars in a calendar year.  With funds earmarked for the areas of transportation and education, the ballot question is the first maneuver in many years that proposes to raise income taxes, and comes at a time when the state continues to see slow revenue growth with faster-growing spending needs.  While both the House and Senate leadership has maintained a line of “no new taxes” in past legislative cycles, this dedication to such policies has begun to soften.  As the gap in available financial resources continues to grow, companies should monitor the issue of taxation closely for potential change.
  • Employment Covenants – Commonly referred to as “non-competition agreements,” employment covenants are one restriction used to inhibit the flow of intellectual property or market share.  In some cases, employers attempt to protect their customer base by prohibiting employees from working in the same industry or geographical area.  In other cases, employers are seeking to protect their significant investment in R&D or other intellectual property.  Both House and Senate passed their own versions of this bill, with inclusion of Uniform Trade Secrets Act language in each. As an issue that has attracted support on both sides, there will be a continued interest in clarifying the use of such agreements in the next session, with expected limitations on the employer side.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave – A key Senate initiative in this past session, this measure was not considered by the House when sent to that body at the end of July.  Intended to assist employees in times of significant change, the bill would allow eligible employees up to 16 weeks of paid job-protected leave in the case of significant illness or injury, or up to 26 weeks to care for a seriously ill family member or a newborn child.  The program would create a new Family and Employment Security Trust Fund that would be administered by a new Division of Family and Medical Leave in the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.  Employer contributions to the Fund would finance the paid leave, although an employer could require employees to pay up to 50 percent of the contribution.  As this issue gains momentum nationally, Massachusetts will likely try to lead the way in finding a balance between employers and employees.
  • Climate change – An Executive Order issued by Governor Charlie Baker in mid-September requires state agencies to look closely at climate change, with new targets for greenhouse emissions and a plan that begins to address the outcomes of climate change.  Businesses can expect to see increasing municipal attention on their so-called “carbon footprint,” with perhaps new targets regarding municipal waste, recycling, energy efficiency and climate preparedness.  It is currently unclear what form this effort will take in the Legislature for the next session, but climate change will continue to be a significant issue.
  • Energy – While the Legislature did pass a measure dealing with renewable energy in the last session, there are already signs that more work will be needed, especially in the area of solar energy.  The planned shutdown of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in 2019 will enhance the need for additional energy sources to replace that capacity.  In addition, the discussion of alternatives such as hydropower and wind power have not been fully exhausted.
  • Transportation – As the state continues to invest in recruitment of new businesses, adequate transportation and transit for workers continues to be a theme.  State investment in transportation has been a touchy subject in recent years, with questions of reliability, sustainability and expansion overlaid by the significant funding amounts needed to ensure all three.  A 2016 fare increase did not go far enough to meet the needs of an aging public transportation system – expect that the funding gap as well as adequate future planning will continue to be a discussion in the new legislative session.
  • Airbnb/Emerging Technology – This past session, call for proper laws and regulation of “emerging technology” became more prevalent.  One such issue is the regulation of short-term rentals, such as Airbnb.  Currently, lodging rented through web-based applications does not fall under the same public safety and health restrictions as conventional hotel and motel rooms.  Nor are they taxed at the same level as other forms of short-term lodging, which means a significant loss of potential revenue for the state and host cities and towns.  A measure passed out of the Senate would have regulated the taxation of these short-term rentals without addressing public health and safety regulations.  While the House did not take up the Senate bill, Speaker DeLeo has stated his intention to address this issue early in 2017.  This issue is of interest to those monitoring the state’s treatment of emerging technology, as well as those who are interested in the long-term availability of transient accommodation in the Commonwealth.

A number of measures passed this last session are in the process of full implementation, and will significantly affect Massachusetts businesses, such as the implementation of an equal gender pay act and a planned January 1, 2017 increase in the minimum wage to $11.00 per hour.

Finally, the 2017-2018 legislative session leads up to the next gubernatorial election in November 2018.  Governor Charlie Baker is expected to run for re-election and will be looking for opportunities to prove his worth to the voters.  Many hot-button issues remain out of his direct control, such as inadequacies in the transportation system and stagnant revenues, both of which are two areas that can quickly become a headache during a statewide campaign.  While he has not been in favor of increased taxation, he may be amenable to regulatory or other changes that could affect businesses’ bottom line.

Close monitoring of state policies and legislative efforts will ensure that your voice is heard at the correct time.

Lindsay Toghill is a vice president in O’Neill and Associates’ government relations practice. To learn more about her or our services, click here

OA’s Quick Take on the Second 2016 Presidential Debate


Sunday, October 9th marked the second presidential debate of the 2016 Election. Coming on the heels of a scandal that drove dozens of supporters away from the Trump campaign, many Americans were anxious to see how the debate would take shape. Our team shares their initial reactions below:

  1. Hillary walked out strong, confident, smiling. Trump seemed reluctant, nervous.
  2. If you were a Trump supporter, he came out and did exactly what you wanted him to do. He did enough to stop his landslide. And he clearly did some prep. It was still not enough to drastically improve his debate performance, but he performed better on the first few questions of this debate than in the last one.
  3. Locker room talk is no excuse for the language used by Trump in the leaked 2005 video. It’s a sorry explanation, especially after his terrible apology.
  4. The visual of Trump lurking behind Hillary will likely be the lasting memory from this debate, and it was not a good look for him. It made viewers uncomfortable – not just women, but also men.
  5. The questions from the audience were very broad, and given the challenges that this campaign has had on focusing on policy, I think that the broadness of the questions did not help in that effort. I think that this audience should have been encouraged to write questions with more specifics regarding policy.
  6. It seems that Trump believes being President is essentially acting on one’s own and clearly has a lack of understanding about the government’s system of checks and balances. This is an exaggerated statement, but there is some truth to it. He seems to think that one senator has a lot of power.
  7. I don’t think that this debate changes any of the fundamentals of the election. Trump may have shored up collapsing support from the Republican Party, but he did nothing to expand his base. Hillary continued to look substantive and presidential, which is what she needed to convey.

Share your insights and takeaways with our team on Twitter @oneillandassoc or by using #OAPolitics. Learn more about our digital communications and social media management capabilities here


Trump Goes Low, Ends on Even Lower Note after Second Debate

By Cosmo Macero Jr.

Cosmo Macero Jr.It’s become almost impossible to look at this race from any perspective other than: “Can you imagine this person as the actual President?”

The answer with Trump has been “no” for quite some time. Yet even with the terrible 48 hours he experienced following the release of his vulgar remarks, the opportunity existed for him to at least win a big campaign moment by delivering a very different kind of performance in the debate.

He didn’t.

Trump actually survived the agonizing start – the harsh scolding from Hillary – and the necessary relentlessness from both moderators on his vulgarity and cavalier boasting of sexual assault. But when it was time to move on he simply could not break out of #TheDonald mode.

The prowling of the stage and the sniffling sounds and the frowns and furrowed brow and other various looks continued to betray a candidate with no self-control, and no ability to disguise his emotions – qualities that one does not value in a head of state.

As one colleague of mine put it: “It would be good to play poker with Donald Trump.”

The thumping defeat Trump suffered in the first debate outweighed the more subtle loss he sustained in the second. There was so very much he needed to do to even make a dent with a single voter who wasn’t already absolutely devoted to him. It was too big a hill to climb. He did little or nothing to win back the Republicans who have fled his cause like a listing ocean liner. And if he was able, perhaps, to stabilize his stalwart “base” – it’s with the knowledge that it won’t alone be enough to win the presidency.

Cosmo Macero Jr. is a senior vice president in O’Neill and Associates’ communications division. To continue the conversation, connect with him on Twitter or email him at

2015-2016 Massachusetts Legislative Recap and Look Ahead

July 31st marked the informal end of the 2015-2016 legislative session, and lawmakers rushed to churn out veto overrides and landmark legislation before heading out for summer vacation and reelection campaigns in the lead up to November. In a final session that ran into the early morning hours of Monday, August 1st, Massachusetts legislators were able to compromise on major bills dealing with the ride-for-hire industry, economic development, and energy, but were unable to pass anything dealing with non-competition agreement reform.

Ride-for-Hire Regulation – The House and Senate were able to agree to a compromise bill regulating ride-for-hire services like Uber and Lyft. The bill requires a two-tiered background check system for drivers, but stops short of requiring fingerprinting, a provision strongly supported by the Commonwealth’s taxi drivers. The bill creates a path for the transportation network companies (TNC) to begin picking up at Logan Airport and the Boston Convention Center, which had not been allowed up to that point, and includes a 20-cent ride surcharge to benefit local infrastructure as well as state programs.

Renewable Energy – Just under the wire, the Legislature was able to pass a compromise energy bill that would require the state to purchase significantly more energy from renewable sources, especially offshore wind producers.  Advocates and industry representatives had a more ambitious agenda than was reflected in the eventual law, so expect this to remain an issue next session.

Economic Development – The $1 billion economic development bill passed in the waning hours of the session, and included funding for a wide array of projects such as improvements in infrastructure, investment in workforce development and low-income housing. The compromise bill, however, omitted several provisions that were included in original versions of the bill. Among those were a proposed tax on Airbnb and other home rental services, an expansion of the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) as well as language that would authorize the Massachusetts Lottery to expand mobile gaming.

No Deal on Non-Compete Agreements – Although the House and Senate both passed their own versions of legislation that would govern the use and applicability of non-competition agreements, the two bodies were unable to come to a final compromise in the closing hours of the session. Ultimately, it was the issue of so-called “garden leave,” which would require employers to pay former workers not to work, that prevented a final agreement. This perennial issue will surely come up again next session.

The 190th General Court will convene on January 4, 2017 for its next two-year legislative cycle.

For more information about O’Neill and Associates state government relations services, click here.

A Week In Review: Debate Fallout Exacerbates Challenges for Trump Campaign

By Peter Ubertaccio

2016-10_ubertaccio_0087Donald Trump’s slide in the polls seems to confirm conventional wisdom that his widely panned performance last Monday has doomed his candidacy.

That’s both right and wrong.

Trump turned in one of the most dismal debate performances in modern times.  It began a week of negatives featuring the body shaming of a former Miss Universe, reports that he hasn’t paid income taxes in over a decade, and an order for the Trump Foundation to cease its activities.

The debate seems like the high point of the week.

I was lucky enough to be inside the debate hall where the audience reactions reaffirmed what was happening across the country.  Though we couldn’t see the split screen that the viewing audience saw, and thus missed the important contradictions between Trump’s words and Clinton’s reactions, it was notable that Trump’s outbursts largely landed like thuds.

Though scattered applause occurred, I mostly saw heads shaking in disbelief as Trump harangued his way through 90 minutes.  That’s telling because the campaigns both had an equal number of tickets to the debate.  Clinton and Trump supporters were scattered throughout the hall seated next to each other.  Hofstra students and those who attended as guests of the Commission on Presidential debates helped to fill up the hall.

Moderator Lester Holt tried to discourage applause or boos but a partisan and political junkie crowd is not easily cowed into silence.

Polls released yesterday by CNN confirm the collapse.  Trump and Clinton were virtually tied in early September.  Now she’s pulling away.  States like North Carolina remain tight but he has been unable to fight back in Virginia, Colorado, or New Hampshire.  He cannot get to 270 electoral votes without Florida and Clinton continues to lead in the Sunshine state.

Indeed every post debate poll shows a growing lead for Clinton.

It’s tempting to say that the debate has caused this.  But it’s much more complicated.

Recall that Mitt Romney bested Barack Obama in their first encounter.  John Kerry was widely viewed as the winner in all three of his debates with George W. Bush. Ronald Reagan’s first debate with Walter Mondale was so dismal for the incumbent that Reagan’s mental health became the subject of national conversation.

Obama, Bush, and Reagan were not ultimately harmed by debates as the fundamentals of the race favored them.   This race favors Clinton.

The debate magnified the doubts that many have held about Donald Trump for a very long time.    Voters have by wide margins questioned Trump’s temperament.  Last week’s debate confirmed their doubts.

It’s this long standing concern about his caustic style and chaotic campaign that is harming Donald Trump, not his poor debating skills.

Professor Peter Ubertaccio is Professor Politics, a blogger at MassPoliticsProfs, and a political analyst. He serves as the Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Programs and as Director of the Joseph Martin Institute for Law & Society at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter at @professoru for more of his political insight and analysis. 

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund to Host Major Symposium on Alzheimer’s Disease on October 19th

caf-symposiumCure Alzheimer’s Fund will host its 6th annual symposium at the Boston Public Library on Wednesday, October 19th.  The symposium will focus on New Paths to Discovery and will feature some of the world’s leading researchers on Alzheimer’s disease.

Cure Alzheimer’s Fund is a non-profit dedicated to funding the most promising research to prevent, slow or reverse Alzheimer’s disease. Since its founding in 2004, Cure Alzheimer’s Fund has contributed over $45 million to research, and its funded initiatives have been responsible for several key breakthroughs – including the groundbreaking “Alzheimer’s in a Dish” study. So far this year, the organization has issued more than $6 million in research grants to scientists looking to advance our knowledge of Alzheimer’s disease or to develop effective therapies to treat or cure it.  Since the beginning of the year, the organization has funded 29 projects across the country and around the world, with more grants to come.

The symposium will feature a film screening of four short films focused on living with Alzheimer’s, plus a discussion with award-winning author David Shenk and prize-winning filmmaker Eric Latek.  Additionally, the event will highlight research on new paths to discovery by Duke University’s Murali Doraiswamy, Beth Stevens of Boston Children’s Hospital, and Rudy Tanzi of Massachusetts General Hospital.  Tanzi is the Chair of Cure Alzheimer’s Fund’s Research Consortium and Doraiswamy is a member of the consortium.  There will be a Q&A with the researchers after their presentations.

The symposium is free of charge and members of the public are welcome to attend the film screening, the research presentation or both.  Attendees must register in advance by calling (781) 237-3800 or at this link.

To learn more about O’Neill and Associates’ healthcare experience, click here