US national elections are a year away, but the long political season is well under way. Events and advertising in early caucus and primary states and nationally televised debates (one was the most viewed CNN show ever) have resulted in polling that charts the candidates’ ranking on a daily basis. But now, what matters as much as the polls is money in the bank. 

Lower polls mean fewer contributions; an upward trend attracts the cash to pay for media and staff in the early primary states. Victories or strong showings with key demographic groups in the early states can in turn lead to more contributions, financing the effort ahead. Alternatively, if funds are not replenished, unless they’re covering costs personally, candidates are forced to suspend their campaigns. 

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As this process unfolds, investors have an opportunity to see not just how candidates choose to address investment-related issues but what the responses are from place to place. Consider:

  • How are international earnings characterised?  How might they be taxed?
  • How are foreign direct investors into the US characterised? How might they be regulated?
  • How are foreign workers characterised? How might they be facilitated or restricted?
  • What needs more emphasis – distributing wealth or creating wealth? 

These questions may be addressed nationally, but among the states, popular reactions vary. These variations are attitudes that can become manifest in local laws, regulations and policies – what executives call the 'business friendly' conditions that facilitate growth. 

Recent press reports have focused on high-profile corporate headquarters relocations, but the drivers behind these and other location changes (headcount shifts, square feet leased or abandoned, new capital invested) are an ongoing story. They are worth taking the time to understand, and election years can offer unique opportunities for an insight into why local policies are what they are and what they might become.

Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations. Email: daniel.malachuk@gmail.com