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RILA adds DC influencers to champion retail cause


With the retail industry continuing to face abundant legislative challenges, the Retail Industry Leaders Association has made two key hires to bolster lobbying efforts during what promises to be a year of highly contentious presidential politics.

Legislative matters related to taxes and financial services are two areas (see others below) where the retail industry faces enormous challenges which is why the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) hired two top lobbyists with deep experience in both areas. The trade group named Austen Jensen VP for government affairs and Dave Koenig as VP of tax, effective Jan. 4.

“Dave and Austen are well-versed in many of the retail industry’s top issues and each has a proven record of developing and implementing effective legislative strategies,” said Jennifer Safavian, RILA’s executive VP for government affairs. “Their robust knowledge of Capitol Hill will be of great value to our members and add to the great team already in place.”

Jensen will manage RILA’s financial services portfolio, including leading efforts to promote transparency, innovation, and competition as it pertains to financial practices in the retail industry. He most recently served as chief of staff to Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) who serves as vice chairman of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee. Prior to joining Congressman McHenry’s office, Jensen served as legislative director for Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) and later Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-N.C.) both of whom also serve on the Financial Services Committee.

“Austen (Jensen) served as a trusted advisor to me for much of his ten years on Capitol Hill,” McHenrey said. “He has a deep knowledge of the financial services sector and numerous other key policy issues facing Congress. While I will miss his counsel, I know he will be a great advocate on behalf of RILA and their members.”

Joining RILA from the National Restaurant Association is Dave Koenig who will serve as vp for tax to lead RILA’s tax policy issues. It is a key role because one of the retail industry’s top priorities is comprehensive tax reform that broadens the base, lowers the rate, simplifies the tax code, and treats all industries equally. That is a lofty objective, but Koenig is well verses in tax matters. He joins RILA from the National Restaurant Association (NRA), where he served as VP of tax and profitability for the past six years. While there, Koenig advocated for top legislative issues affecting the restaurant industry, including tax, interchange fee reform, access to capital, and data security. Prior to NRA, Koenig was tax policy director for the American Forest & Paper Association (AF&PA), leading the group’s efforts on federal tax legislation and regulatory issues. Koenig is a former tax senior attorney for Texaco, Inc. as well as former tax counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the accounting firm Ernst & Whinney.

In addition to the areas of taxes and financial services, RILA’s other areas of legislative emphasis include; cybersecurity and data privacy, implementation of the Affordable Care Act, improved payments security, the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement and overturning the National Labor Relation’s Board’s rule regarding what are known as “ambush elections.”

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