The newest congressional caucus isn't toying around, it's serious – apparently – about helping to ease the flow of smiles to young children.
The Congressional Toy Caucus – co-chaired by Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Rep. Ron Kind, D-Wis. – was launched Wednesday and hit the ground running Thursday with a closed-to-the-press briefing for congressional staff.
The briefing was hosted with the Toy Industry Association, the industry group closely associated with the caucus's formation, and issues up for discussion included international trade. It took on the air of a first-of-the-year club meeting as staffers shuffled into a room of the Cannon House Office Building.
The association gave just $14,000 to congressional candidates in 2011-2012, but spent more than $250,000 on lobbying in 2012, according to information posted by the Center for Responsive Politics to opensecrets.org.
Blackburn and Kind were two of the 11 congressional recipients of money from the association, receiving $1,500 and $1,000, respectively, in the 2012 election cycle.
"We suggested it would be a good time to create a caucus after not having one for a long time," Toy Industry Association Vice President Stacy Leistner told U.S. News. "We felt we had enough momentum." Blackburn and Kind volunteered to start one, he said.
The caucus does not have one specific policy goal at this time, but rather a range of general business and social awareness aims, including safety and the positive impact of playing for kids. The association supports bills addressing chemical and testing regulations.
"The Toy Caucus will be a strong voice in promoting excellence within the toy industry," Blackburn said in a statement released Thursday by the Toy Industry Association. "There is a lot of creativity and innovation that supports this nearly $22 billion industry and we want to ensure its continued success for American families and toy businesses of all sizes."
"We look forward to working with representatives of the industry to advance discussions on topics ranging from toy safety and the value of play to the growth of small toy businesses and the increase of free trade opportunities in foreign markets," Kind said.
Three billion toys were sold last year in the U.S., according to the association, which proudly says it helped craft the toy-safety regulations in the successful 2008 Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act.
Current members of the toy caucus include Reps. Bob Latta, R-Ohio; Lee Terry, R-Neb.; David Cicilline, D-R.I.; Ron Barber, D-Ariz.; Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.; Susan Davis, D-Calif.; and Erik Paulsen, R-Minn.