CEO Thomas P. O’Neill III on the 2018 State of the Union address

Dear Friend,

Like many Americans, I watched President Trump give his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening. In his address, the President called for unity.  The words, when read from a Teleprompter, offered the impression of a changed man. But the call stood in stark contrast from the policies his administration has pursued. In his single year as president, we have witnessed passionate resistance provoked by the actions and tweets of the President. From the Women’s March and Black Lives Matter to those who protested against the violence in Charlottesville and voted to change a senate seat in Alabama, people in blue states and red states are organizing anew and taking a stand for American ideals. True to the old saying, the President’s divisive actions speak louder than his rehearsed words about unity. Calls to set aside differences mean nothing if not backed by action.

In contrast, while Representative Joe Kennedy III’s response to the State of the Union invoked a similar message of unity, his words were backed by a compassionate policy platform that seeks a better life for everyone in this country.  Kennedy’s call to leave no American behind was uplifting and inspiring. He rejected the impulse to pit groups against each other, the notion that policy outcomes are a zero-sum game in which some must lose if others are to succeed. His words carried meaning because his plans support them.

Elected leaders should commit that 2018 be a time to search for opportunities to set aside differences. Words are not enough. It’s time to do what’s right for all our people.


Tom O’Neill

CEO’s Corner: Inaction On Gun Control Can No Longer Be An Option

220px-thomas_p_oneill_iiiIn the last 35 days our nation has seen two of the deadliest mass shootings in United States history. Political leaders offer their “thoughts and prayers” for the victims, their families and friends. I don’t doubt the sincerity of their condolences, but the killings at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs were committed in a house of worship. The victims were there to pray. While we mourn the victims, we’re compelled to point out that our prayers won’t return the dead, our prayers won’t erase the memories of the survivors, churchgoers who no doubt witnessed horror that will remain with them the rest of their lives. This small, close-knit town lost almost five percent of its residents at Sunday Mass.

Republican elected officials, in particular, reject immediate calls to action. The talking points have been distributed– it’s too soon to talk about gun control; we need to let these families mourn.

The New York Times November 6, 2017 editorial “It’s Not Too Soon to Debate Gun Control” offers a forceful, graphical rebuttal to this claim. While we are within days of the killings in Texas, we are 36 days removed from the Las Vegas shooting, 513 days removed the Orlando Nightclub Shooting, and 1,789 days removed from the slaughter of children at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. If new horrors await us regularly, “it’s too soon” can always apply. The claim is hollow. The memory of the victims should demand that we act.

This Fall, Republicans in Congress are attempting to fast-track a tax plan that rearranges the entire economy and skews cuts to corporations and the wealthy. President Trump, Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan declared that Congress must act before the end of the year, tax cuts are so important. But 40 days after more than 500 were wounded or killed in Las Vegas, and only days after more than two dozen were killed in Sutherland Springs, Texas, there is no urgency—in fact there is no effort at all by President Trump, the Senate Leader, or the House Speaker to address the prevalence of military-grade assault weapons in the United States and the horror for which those tools of death are responsible. Let’s be clear, the time isn’t “right” for gun legislation, it is tragically overdue. To think that partisanship, and fear of the NRA, would be more important than the obligation of elected officials to ensure the basic safety of our citizens is simply unforgivable to me as a former public official.

According to a 2016 study, states with stricter gun laws see fewer gun-related deaths. I am proud to say that Massachusetts is leading the way in gun control—the first state to introduce and pass a law banning the sale of bump stocks, the accessory used by the Las Vegas shooter that allowed him to shoot more than 500 people in a matter of minutes. The effort was introduced by the overwhelmingly Democratic legislature in the wake of the Las Vegas massacre but was met with bi-partisan support and ultimately signed into law by the Baker administration on November 3rd. Fully automatic assault weapons have been banned in the United States since 1935. Many semi-automatic assault rifles, including the the AR-15, were banned from 1994-2004, but in 2004 Congress allowed that law to expire. The AR-15 is manufactured by Colt’s Manufacturing Company in Hartford, Connecticut. Since 2004, an AR-15 was used by mass murderers in Sutherland Springs, in Las Vegas, in Orlando at the Pulse Nightclub, in San Bernadino, in Sandy Hook, and at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. When is it not “too soon”?

Congress should take its lead from the bipartisan approach of effective and thoughtful leadership on gun control in MA. Inaction can no longer be an option.

A few years back I gave a speech in Denver, Colorado where I was asked about my stance on gun control. As a Democrat I feared what reaction the crowd would have to my response. The goal of gun control laws is not to strip individuals of their 2nd Amendment Rights. Individuals are welcome to own and house guns as well as use them for appropriate uses, hunting, skeet and target shooting. No, the goal of gun control is centered on the safety and protection of all. As I finished my statement I braced myself but was pleasantly surprised when I was met with applause. While the 2nd Amendment is a right given to individuals, no one can argue that we also have a right to safety and a feeling of security. By failing to act, Congress leaves the citizens of the United States vulnerable to future attacks. Legislative action is necessary and it must begin today.


From HKS to Elected Office: The Hows and Whys of People Who Serve

By: Tom O’Neill 

Last week, in the Massachusetts room of the Harvard Club of Boston, surrounded by the names and faces of great politicians and fellow alum, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion inspired by President John F. Kennedy’s famous quote, “ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.” The panel consisted of New Hampshire State Representative Marilinda Garcia (R), Massachusetts State Representative and Chair of the Ways & Means Committee Jeffrey Sanchez (D), Massachusetts State Representative Marjorie Decker (D), New Hampshire State Representative David Hess (R) and myself with moderator Harvard Professor David King.

The conversation began with each panelist describing their path to running for office. I could not help but notice a recurring theme in our journeys: we never intended to run.  Many of us got involved in an attempt to help our local communities through the support of a candidate we believed in or the promotion of an issue we found important. The desire to give back that is so deeply rooted in all of us led to discussion around a need for humanity in politics. On a national level this is a concept that seems to be lost under the current administration and today we have too many individuals seeking office for all the wrong reasons. We need to step out from behind the screens and away from the social media platforms that shield those who currently perpetuate hatred and division. Representative Decker backed this idea claiming, “right now, the most important thing we can do is connect [on a personal level].” Twitter, Facebook and other social media provide a means of communication but there is not substitution for a face to face conversation.

As the night came to a close, moderator David King, in true professor form, left us all with some homework, “talk to your neighbors.”  It is not enough to simply be friends on Facebook. When you know your neighbors on a deeper, more personal level, it makes for a safer, happier community. With so much division in our country, it is more important now than ever to get involved by backing the candidates looking to better the community and not just themselves, to get out and vote, and to ask what you can do for your country.

DeHate the Debate: Seeking a Common Ground to Disagree Without Disrespect

By: Tom O’Neill 

Few would disagree that there’s a lack of civility today in politics, on many social media platforms and in the public square, especially when it comes to hot button issues. Last night, I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion hosted by Regis College called DeHate the Debate: Seeking a Common Ground to Disagree Without Disrespect to look deeper at this subject. WCVB political reporter Janet Wu moderated the discussion with panelists Newton Mayor Setti Warren, Waltham Mayor Jeannette McCarthy, former CNN White House correspondent and owner of Little Park Media Dan Lothian, Gatehouse Media West Regional Director of News Operations Anne Brennan and myself.

While we spoke of the need for new ground rules to help prevent conflict, the media effect of poor political role models, and the challenges that come with the right to free speech, ultimately the discussion came down to social media. From social platforms like Twitter and Facebook to tailored Google results, the way in which people receive news and information has heightened existing frictions among individuals and groups with conflicting beliefs. Social media sites are incredibly good for sharing content, including human interest stories and gossip from non-reputable sources with questionable accuracy. Too often social media users take these stories as fact, especially they play into their political beliefs or agenda.

Our panel was unanimous; the best way to ease tensions and achieve a calmer discussion is to speak with facts – do your research, look at the issue from all sides, and have the conversation face to face or as panelist Mayor Warren put it, “human to human.” Mayor McCarthy in answering a question about whether the rules for public debate have changed, said it best, “There aren’t any rules. That is the problem” because of the lack of face-to-face contact “people say anything they want without repercussions.” It takes little courage to post a controversial statement online, but that’s not the case when one is called out in person. We need more in-person contact with each other.

Thank you to Regis College for giving us the opportunity to have this open, honest discussion about remaining level-headed in the face of disagreement. As I said last night, acceptance of others and their beliefs begins at home, but it is essential that the conversation is continued by educators. As a graduate of a Jesuit institution, I strongly believe in educating the whole person, in learning about an issue from all sides and in being able to discuss those opinions in a civilized manner.  It is the job of all leaders to talk about the importance of civility as a societal standard by which we live. If we can embody that standard through our words and actions, then disagreements would no longer have to be synonymous with disrespect.

The President’s Budget: An O’Neill and Associates Education/Refresher on the Federal Budget Process

As we continue to assess the Trump administration’s policy initiatives, there is growing anticipation surrounding President Trump’s first budget. As we approach this milestone, we thought it would be helpful to share this review of the federal budget process.

Every year the President of the United States submits a budget request to Congress that is drafted in close coordination with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). The budget request outlines funding levels for all federal departments and independent agencies, including spending and revenue proposals as well as any new policies and initiatives with significant budget implications.

The Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 says that “the President submit the budget between the first Monday in January and the first Monday in February.” More recently, Presidents have traditionally sent a budget request to Congress the first week of February for the coming fiscal year, 2018 in this instance, which begins on October 1st. The budget submission is typically delayed in a new President’s first year in recognition of the complexities of transition.  Before the inauguration, the transition team indicated that we might anticipate a draft proposal or “skinny budget” from President Trump in the first 100 days. However, recent reports suggest that the Trump administration may be preparing a full budget request for as early as mid-March to late spring. This timing is not really surprising as the President’s nominee for OMB Director, South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney’s was only approved by the full Senate on February 16th – the longest confirmation wait for an OMB director ever according to RollCall.

More information on the agenda and funding priorities of the Trump administration will likely be revealed when the President addresses a joint session of Congress on February 28th.  President Trump’s speech will not be a formal State of the Union address. Newly inaugurated president’s often deliver a speech on their agenda and goals rather than an assessment on the state of the country. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said at a press briefing today that we can expect the President’s speech to include broad policy initiatives, focused on defining success, as well as look back at what he has accomplished the last month. Additionally the President will share some of his goals to work with Congress on healthcare, tax reform, and infrastructure.  O’Neill and Associates’ federal lobbyists will be live tweeting the speech. You can follow along at #OAPolitics and a follow up analysis will be posted to our blog as well.

Once the President’s Budget request is finally released, it is referred to the House and Senate Budget Committees and to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for an analysis and scoring of the proposal to project the budgetary impact of policies.  With the budget request and CBO budget report, the committees each submit a budget resolution in the House and Senate, respectfully.  Budget resolutions have traditionally been submitted in early April, but we anticipate a later timeframe this year. The House and Senate each considers its own resolution before voting on and passing the resolution.  Once passed, the House and Senate each names a handful of members to a joint conference committee to negotiate a conference report – a reconciliation of any differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. The final joint budget resolution must be approved by both the House and Senate to be binding. Interestingly, the budget resolution is not a law and does not require the President’s signature. However, it is a guide for Congress in the appropriations process. In a future blog post, we will take a more in-depth look at the appropriations process and the role of Congress, the President and even the role clients can play with former House Appropriations Committee staffer, O’Neill and Associates Vice President AmyClaire Brusch.

H-1Bs are in the news right now. So, what are they?


By: Carlos Iturregui

H-1B work visas may see a major overhaul in the near future. At last week’s news briefing, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that possible executive action on work visas “is part of a larger immigration effort” under consideration by the new Administration.

Proponents see H-1B holders as beneficial to American industry, especially companies in the technology and science sectors. Opponents see the program as a way to displace American workers with lower-paid H-1B visa holders.

H-1Bs are championed by not only by tech/engineering industry but also academic and medical communities, all of which are vital to the Massachusetts economy. This category of visas applies only to highly skilled workers with degrees. Another category of visas – the H-2B – applies to seasonal non-agriculture workers (such as hospitality).

Industry should keep a watchful eye for changes to either visa type.

Historically, increasing H-1B visas has been a bipartisan issue. H-1Bs are subject to a Congressionally-mandated annual quota cap. Raising the annual cap and increasing resources for approving H-1B visas are regularly included in both Republican and Democrat bills.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services received over 236,000 petitions for the 65,000 H-1B FY 2017 quota during the standard five day filing period between April 1st and April 7th, 2016. That was the highest number of petitions that USICS has ever received for H-1B quota cap since its inception. 2016 was the fourth consecutive year that the visa cap was reached in five days

Some general facts about H-1Bs:

  • H-1Bs are capped annually at 65,000 visas (of which 1,400 are reserved for Chile and 5,400 for Singapore – pursuant to Trade Agreements)
  • An additional 20,000 are exempt from the cap providing that the visa applicant has completed master degree in an approved institution or higher grade
  • H-1Bs are valid for three years and renewable/extended for an additional three
  • H-1Bs are the only visa with expedited processing
  • Visa holders are employer sponsored
  • Families of visa holders can come to the US, but they cannot work. Accordingly, most of these visa holders enter the country alone and remain separated from their friends and families
  • In FY 2015 70 percent of H-1Bs went to Indian immigrants with an average age of 25-34 years old and a median salary $70,000s/annual

OA Hosts Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus’ “Post-Election Apocalypse” Media Panel



                       From left to right: Hillary Chabot of Boston Herald, Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV, Lauren Dezenski of POLITICO Massachusetts, Mike Deehan of WGBH-FM, and Shira Schoenberg of MassLive

On Wednesday evening, the Massachusetts Women’s Political Caucus (MWPC) hosted a “Post-Election Apocalypse” panel at O’Neill and Associates, which offered an insider’s view on the recent election results and a discussion on what happens next. Featured panelists included Andy Hiller of WHDH-TV, Lauren Dezenski of POLITICO Massachusetts, Mike Deehan of WGBH-FM, Hillary Chabot of Boston Herald and Shira Schoenberg of MassLive. This diverse group of panelists offered unique perspectives on the influential role that media played in this year’s presidential election.


The MWPC is a non-partisan organization that celebrates over 40 years of supporting women in politics and public policy. MWPC Board Member and O’Neill and Associates’ Senior Director Jennifer Krowchun started off the night by highlighting major gains for female politicians in this election and specifically for women of color. MWPC Board Member and O’Neill and Associates’ Senior Vice President Ann Murphy led the lively panel discussion.

While many things remain unclear, the need for unity and introspection was a theme throughout the evening. Collectively, both the panelists and the audience agreed that Wednesday morning’s results were shocking, especially given weeks of conflicting media messages and pollsters’ numbers. For the media, some panelists suggested that this election should serve as a call to action for Americans to take a step back and audit their sources from which they receive news, while also being mindful of the temptation to surround ourselves with like-minded individuals and media outlets.

For those not able to attend in person, O’Neill and Associates streamed the event on Facebook Live. If you’d like to hear more about what the panelists had to say, you can watch the videos on O’Neill and Associates’ Facebook page here.

To learn more about MWPC, visit its website.

Three Keys to Hillary Clinton’s Big Debate Win

By Suzanne Morse


By all objective measures, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton scored a decisive victory last night in the first presidential debate, the biggest moment yet of the 2016 presidential campaign.  Both an instant poll by CNN and a Public Policy Polling survey rated her the overwhelming winner (62 percent vs. 27 percent and 51 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively); a focus group by pollster Frank Luntz gave the win to Hillary Clinton; and even the investor markets indicated a clear victory for the former First Lady, Senator, and Secretary of State.

So, what were three keys to her winning strategy?

  • Managing Sky High Expectations – Last night, Hillary Clinton pulled off something that is nearly impossible: she not only met high expectations, she exceeded them. Most observers believed that the debate was Clinton’s to lose, which is a risky position to be in.  But in the days before the debate, the Clinton campaign directly took on those expectations, convincingly making the case that Trump should not be graded on a curve.  The campaign was helped in this effort by Trump’s campaign manager Kellyanne Conway, who said the day before the debate that Trump is the “Babe Ruth of debating.”

    Once she took the debate stage, Clinton performed well – she seemed presidential, and in command of both facts and temperament. She answered difficult questions swiftly and decisively, and took the countless opportunities that Trump gave her to put him on the defensive.  All in all, it was an excellent performance from Hillary Clinton across the board.

  • Winning the Social Media Game – Debates are no longer just won or lost by how reporters discuss them. Social media has taken on an increasing importance in shaping the debate narrative.  According to Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies’ Illuminating 2016 project, Hillary Clinton won the “share of voice” contest on social media last night.  This influenced the narrative of the evening, and will likely continue to impact the fallout from the debate.
  • Walking the Gender Tightrope – Somewhat lost in all of the hoopla last evening was the fact that Hillary Clinton is the first woman to ever be in a general presidential debate. Fairly or not, Clinton had to manage the many stereotypes that are applied to women in public positions, from her onstage demeanor and her clothing choices to the tone of her voice.  From the moment she walked on stage, Clinton looked and sounded presidential and assertive while avoiding most gender traps.

Make sure to tune in to the next debate, which will feature Vice Presidential candidates, Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence and moderated by Elaine Quijano of CBSN.  It will be held on Tuesday, October 4th at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.

Suzanne Morse is a vice president in O’Neill and Associates’ communications division, specializing in media relations, messaging and branding, and strategic advocacy campaigns. Connect with Suzanne Morse on Twitter @sznnmorse or by email at

Inbox Journalism

Director Alex Bloom

Director Alex Bloom

Everyday, I receive 15 different email newsletters.

My inbox populates with newsletters from well-regarded reporters and thought leaders who have spent the early morning reading and curating the news before sending out the best of the day’s clips to their subscribers.

A few examples (disclaimer, I’m an avowed political junkie):

It’s an interesting concept – journalists are being recruited to lend a critical eye to already-reported news stories and send an email assessing the day’s coverage. And the formula goes far beyond politics:

  • TheSkimm, a general interest newsletter geared toward Millennial women, now boasts nearly two million subscribers.
  • The New York Times christened POLITICO’s Mike Allen as “The Man the White House Wakes Up To” for his Playbook, with over 100,000 subscribers.
  • Dan Primack’s Term Sheet, at Fortune Magazine, is one of the best places to get up to date on the latest financial news and has over 50,000 subscribers.

Here in the Boston media market, newsletters are picking up steam. POLITICO arrived last summer, making a newsletter writer their first Massachusetts hire. As the Boston Globe launched STAT last fall, one of their first moves was to seek “a stylish and engaging writer,” according to a job posting, for a morning newsletter. Megan Thielking now anchors the Morning Rounds. The Boston Business Journal has 18 newsletters, Boston Magazine has 15 and the Boston Herald offers nine.

The best and most successful newsletters, according to WGBH’s Mike Deehan, are the ones that find and cultivate a niche.

Deehan spent six years as the author of MASSterList, growing the State House News Service product to 10,000 subscribers as he injected more and more of his humor and sarcasm into the each email. His goal was to take a morning news roundup that he inherited and make it “one that’s a little more enjoyable to read.”

There’s also a difference between authored newsletters – like MASSterList – and a collection of aggregated links without explanation, such as the offering from the newly-minted Crain’s Boston.

But overall, newsletters are growing in popularity, likely because newsletters are mobile-friendly. According to 2014 data from the Pew Research Center, nearly two-thirds of Americans own a smartphone and more than half (55%) got news on their smartphone at least once over the course of a one-week survey period.

Deehan said that the user experience of reading an emailed breakdown of the news, rather than having to open your web browser to multiple different news sites, is a key aspect of the success.

“When it is mobile-first like that and phone-centric, you’re probably going to increase your readership because it is easier to read,” Deehan said.

The trend does present a dilemma for reporters, however. Appearing in a popular newsletter – like Allen’s Playbook – will give great exposure to a game-changing story. But it could also mean that readers don’t ever make it to the full story. For Deehan, who now finds his WGBH radio reports in other newsletters, it isn’t a problem.

“It’s gravy anyway,” said Deehan, who likes to amplify a story’s reach through his own social media. “It’s added to whatever the outreach of that story is going to be.”

For brands, these newsletters represent a great opportunity to get a press release or an announcement in front of key influencers and audiences.

Deehan believes the best newsletters have highly-specific audiences, creating communities around a “high interest” topic. And industry leaders seem to be recognizing that trend, as the New York Times announced this week that it will be creating a newsletter focused solely toward college students.

“The more successful emails are the ones that get ‘nichier’ and ‘nichier,’” Deehan said.

Senior Vice President Cosmo Macero Jr. also offers a glimpse into his inbox with a few of his favorite reads:

  • Dave Pell’s NextDraft is a collection of quirky stories from across the spectrum, making it one of the few successful newsletters that offers general interest news.
  • DealBook, by Andrew Ross Sorkin, comes out twice a day as the New York Times’ mergers and acquisitions reporter/Wall Street expert shapes world financial news.
  • For media insiders, the Morning Media Newsfeed newsletter from Mediabistro plugs readers in to the latest on media news.
  • 5-Bullet Friday captures the thoughts and ideas of Tim Ferriss, an author, investor, and expert on management and leadership.
  • Muck Rack Daily keeps you updated on the latest moves and changes in the world of journalism.

Alex Bloom is a director in O’Neill and Associates’ communications practice. Connect with him by email at and on Twitter at @AlexBloom_05

Five Things I Learned in Iowa

By Nicole Giambusso

Nicole Giambusso, O'Neill and AssociatesIowa Caucus season always brings me back to my days as a field organizer there during the 2008 presidential campaign (full disclosure, I’m a Hillary Clinton supporter). Recently, I’ve realized that the caucuses are an enigma for many people who haven’t experienced them. Here are some takeaways from my time in Iowa for those seeking a little clarity on this iconic political milestone:

The Democratic Caucuses require candidates to be “viable.”

In Iowa, the Democratic and Republican caucus rules differ. During a caucus, Democratic presidential candidates must be deemed “viable” – that is, 15 percent of total voters in the room have to be supporting them in order for those votes to count at all.  When a candidate is deemed non-viable, their supporters are then asked to support alternate candidates. As one could imagine, supporters of low-polling candidates are highly sought after by campaigns vying to be their second choice. The Republicans don’t have this viability requirement. (If they did, I’m sure this year’s crowded field would make for a long and interesting reshuffling process).

There are no secret ballots in Democratic caucuses.

While Republican caucuses use secret ballots, the Democratic caucuses ask voters to stand in a given section of the room to vote publicly for their candidate of choice.

There are no absentee ballots.

Caucusing has to take place in person. I spoke with several potential voters unable to caucus due to factors such as work, lack of child care, or health issues. Barriers remain today, although both parties are making it possible this year for members of the military serving abroad to take part, and the Democrats are taking additional steps toward greater accessibility.

Many Iowans love the process.

A number of Iowans love engaging with campaign staffers who flock to their communities each election cycle. Kind locals – some of whom were not even declared Hillary supporters – fed me zucchini bread and acorn squash, left their doors unlocked in case I needed a snack, restroom or computer, and even gave me a ride in a corn combine. Many Iowans seemed to love the process not only for the chance to see candidates up close, but for the energy and enthusiasm it brought.

Iowa is just as ideologically complex as anywhere else.

The precincts I covered ranged from small towns to expansive farmlands, and like voters across the U.S., they ran the gamut ideologically, from conservative democrats to progressives and everything in between. I even recall a handful of voters telling me they were torn between Obama and Huckabee: two candidates with little in common but their charisma (and of course, winning their respective caucuses that year). These memories flooded back when I read the recent Boston Globe story highlighting New Hampshire voters torn between candidates like Governor John Kasich and Senator Bernie Sanders.

Among other things I learned in Iowa are the real meaning of winter, that there’s such a thing as fried ice cream, and that working with passionate people can make the coldest weather and longest hours enjoyable. As I watch the February 1 caucuses from a distance, I’ll be hoping for a glimpse of the excitement – and of course, for my chosen candidate to pull ahead this time around.

Nicole Giambusso is a director in O’Neill and Associates’ communications division.