John Motta has a passion for politics. The Chairman of the new Dunkin’ Donuts Franchise Owners Federal Political Action Committee (DDFO FedPAC) has never run for office, nor does he plan to. Motta operates a 20-store network in New Hampshire and Virginia; he’s been a Dunkin’ franchisee since 1980. But, his passion is quite evident when he talks about the political efforts for which he’s volunteered.
“I like being in the mix and I’ve always been there in the background. I helped support Kelly Ayotte’s successful campaign for the US Senate in New Hampshire. In my home town of Nashua, I was appointed to the Parks and Recreation Committee and was appointed as the Chairman of The Ethnic Festival in Nashua. I was also on the fundraising committee for the new high school athletic fields,” said Motta.
That effort was so successful, the city actually named the football field for him. Teams from three high schools – Nashua High North, Nashua High South, and Bishop Guertin High – now play their home games on Motta Field.
With the creation of DDFO FedPAC, Motta will be playing on a bigger field.
New federal laws and regulations – ranging from healthcare to financial reform – affect profitability for franchise owners across all quick service restaurant systems. Franchisees face the continual challenge of alerting federal lawmakers to the impact new laws and regulations have on their businesses and their ability to create jobs, support community efforts and continue investing in the local economy.
“We repeatedly find that government officials do not understand either the nature of the franchise relationship or that Dunkin’ Donuts are virtually 100% independently owned. We’ve been able to put the face of a local, small business owner on our stores as opposed to a faceless corporation that is not a voting constituent in their district. It really does make a difference to government officials when they understand they are regulating a small business owner.” said Rob Branca, chairman of the Massachusetts Political Action Committee, DDFO MassPAC.
Motta says franchise owners across the country are feeling more government interference on issues like menu labeling, credit card fees and immigration reform. “We feel it’s the right time to organize ourselves and be able to support politicians and groups that will work on our behalf.”
Misty Chally, deputy executive director for the Coalition of Franchisee Associations (CFA) and a lobbyist in Washington, D.C., says through the CFA, Dunkin’ Donuts franchise owners have done an excellent job of increasing their visibility on Capitol Hill and the creation of a federal political action committee is the right next step towards getting more involved.
“These are not easy economic times for franchisees; it’s critical to have representation here. The more people understand how what happens in Washington affects their businesses back home, they will start to donate and participate,” said Chally. “Dunkin’ Brands has a strong lobbyist down here but, it’s important to distinguish the franchise owners from the Brand. There are times the two sides will not be aligned.”
Branca says one of the lessons he’s learned in the year since the launch of the DDFO MassPAC is the importance of identifying the right issues and the right candidates to support.
“You need to select those that you can master and where it is possible to make a favorable change or prevent an unfavorable change. For candidates, you must select those in the middle that have the power to sway a vote or the wording of a regulation.”
On the federal level, Motta admits, that can be an even bigger challenge. “We have to make sure the issues we identify are ones that impact all franchise owners. I think it’s really important that we have input from franchise owners in all the different regions of the country.”
To accomplish that, Motta has assembled a volunteer board of directors which includes: Jim Cain from New York, Arun Mandi from New Jersey, Scott Ball from Florida, Joe White from Ohio, Branca and DDIFO President Jim Coen.
“Coen was a huge help getting this thing going,” said Motta. “I had tried for a couple of years to start the PAC but it wasn’t until I got Jim involved that it started happening.”
His position as chairman of a PAC may be new, but Motta’s knowledge of politics isn’t. He knows things can move slowly and that raising money can be challenging. He has set out realistic expectations for the PAC’s inaugural year.
“I feel confident we can raise a war chest of $100,000 or more in the first year and get at least 50% of all franchisees to make a contribution,” said Motta. “That will be a success.”