Hearts & Minds - Information for ChangeSM
How to Lobby Your
And Other Ways to Make Your
Your Members of Congress were elected to
represent you, so by all means, let them know what you think. Contacting House and Senate
leaders during the build-up to an important vote can be extremely effective. The
President's office also keeps track of communications on current issues. You may not get a
personal response, particularly if your e-mail, phone call or letter is one of hundreds on
the same topic, but be certain your message will be heard, loud and clear.
How to Contact Your
Technology has provided us with a range of
opportunities to make our voices heard. Particularly when time is of the essence, e-mail,
faxes and telephone calls are effective - nearly instant - communicators. Western Union
also provides a low-cost opportunity to send a mailgram to your Member of Congress.
Bear in mind that an opinion on current legislation receives
more attention than general observations. In general, for all types of
communication, be as specific as possible. Keep it brief. Identify your subject clearly,
give the name and bill number of the legislation you are concerned about. Be reasonable;
don't ask for the impossible or engage in threats. Ask that your legislators state their
positions on the issue; you are entitled to know.
E-Mail or Fax your
Members of Congress. The Common Cause Take Action section will provide you with fax
numbers and e-mail links for all Members who currently can be reached on-line.
Call your Members
of Congress at their offices in Washington, DC or at their state offices. You can also
call your Senators or Representatives by dialing 1-202-224-3121 (U.S.
Capitol Switchboard) and asking for the Member by name. Although you most likely will end
up talking to a staffer and not the Member, your call - your voice - will be heard.
your Members of Congress. Writing an actual letter has its merits as it can
show officials that you are interested enough to set the time aside to write
and mail in a letter. The following are some guidelines for writing letters
to elected officials and was taken from a talk given by
Omar Ahmad at TED2010:
Write a personal (preferably
hand-written) letter with appropriate letterhead (if available) to your
congressperson. Adhere to the following as a template of what to put into
the body of the letter - which should be about 4 parts long:
part one – make it known that you appreciate
the politician and especially their tough job.
part two – make your point or political cause known clearly and
directly without attacking people, but instead attacking tactics.
part three – provide the politician an exit.
part four – provide the politician a reason to use you as a ‘nurturing
agent’. This is where you make it clear to the politician why you
can help and why only you have the solution to the aforementioned
Put your return
address on your letter. Envelopes get thrown away. Be sure to re-write
the letter at least once a month. Send the original copy of the letter
to your congressperson’s district office. Send a copy of the letter to your
congressperson’s main Washington D.C. office.
Meet with your
legislators and question them at public events. Keep questions short and to the point.
Make sure your question is specific: "Will you vote for S. 1219?"* or "Will
you make a public pledge to support this campaign reform effort?"
*In the above example, S. 1219 would mean Senate bill
number number 1219. Often there is a similar bill in the House of Representatives. An
example might be HR. 1429.
Do not use a public forum as an opportunity to argue
with a Member of Congress. If you disagree with his or her response or find it inadequate,
discuss this with the Member after the forum, schedule a meeting in his or
her local office or send a
letter outlining your concerns.
E-mails, faxes, letters
and other written communications to Members of Congress have maximum impact when they
concern pending legislation. To learn when key legislation is coming up, see the
"Take Action" section in Common
Causes Website. This includes late-breaking facts on pending legislation and
How Laws are Passed
After a Senator or
Representative introduces a bill, it is assigned to the appropriate committee, according
to subject area, for mark-up. Here it is studied and rewritten. Hearings are held to
solicit both public and special-interest views.
During mark-up, the committee considers the specific
language of a bill and may amend or change it. When the bill clears the committee, it goes
to the floor for general debate and action.
Once both houses pass a
bill, a conference committee made up of both Senators and Representatives works out any
differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed versions.
The final conference
version must be approved by both houses, then the bill goes to the President to be signed
into law. The President may veto the bill. In that case a two-thirds veto override vote in
both houses is required for the bill to become law.
When to Lobby
At any point in this process you may want to
personally lobby your Representative, Senators, the House and Senate leaders or the
President. There are special times in the legislative process when your letters and calls
can be especially productive.
When a bill is introduced
and assigned to a committee, you can contact your legislators to request that they
cosponsor the bill. Obviously, the more cosponsors a bill has, the more likely it is to
gain support and move through the legislative process.
If the bill is bottled up
in committee and appears unlikely to ever emerge, you might contact your Members of
Congress and urge them to get the bill moving.
In the Senate, a minority
of Senators can stop passage of a bill by launching a filibuster, essentially an endless
debate. Many campaign finance efforts over the years have fallen victim to Senate
filibusters. The votes of 60 Senators are needed to end a filibuster and allow action on a
bill. You might contact your Senators and urge them to fight obstructionist filibusters
blocking action on important legislation.
When legislation is about
to come up on the floor of the House or Senate, you could contact your legislators and
urge support for the position you advocate.
Other Ways to Make
Your Voice Heard
In addition to communicating with your
legislators, there are other ways to influence issues you care about.
A letter-to-the-editor gives you a chance to inform
thousands of people about a critical piece of legislation. Many people read these sections
of the newspaper, especially elected officials. Even if it is not published, your letter
might inspire an editorial on the same subject.
When writing a
letter-to-the-editor, observe how long the average published letter is, and keep your
letter within this length. Make your letter concise, avoid rambling, be specific. Be
certain to sign your name and give your address and telephone number although the latter
will not be published. Most newspapers do not print anonymous letters, although they may
withhold your name if you feel strongly about it. Newspapers often receive more letters
than they can print, so if your letter is not published the first time, try again.
An Opinion Piece
Many newspapers feature a section opposite the editorial
pages (often called the Op-Ed page) for citizen opinion. If you are comfortable writing,
consider submitting an article on a subject you know and care about.
Talk With Reporter Or
Stop by your local newspaper's office and chat with
reporters or editorial page editors. Give them special information like editorial
backgrounders - updates on issues prepared by Common Cause especially for the media. You
can find editorial backgrounders in Common Causes News and Information section.
Radio Call-In Shows
Let others know what you think. Ask questions of those
who appear on these shows. Ask a Representative or Senator how he or she intends to vote
on an upcoming issue. Encourage listeners to call their Members of Congress. Radio talk
shows are also great opportunities to mention Common Cause and our issue fights.
Distribute informative flyers on reform issues in your
community. Give them to friends and neighbors, or hand them out at your local library or
public meeting place. Urge other citizens and community groups to become active.
Join us and ask your friends to join. The more members
we have, the more clout citizens will have in the battle to clean up Washington.
Reach Out to Other
Bring up issues at meetings of other groups you belong
to, and enlist others' support in letter-writing and grassroots lobbying campaigns.
This article is by Common Cause, one of the foremost organizations working for change in the campaign finance
system and other government reforms. It works on both state and national levels.
Since 1970, Common Cause members have lobbied
Members of Congress for government reform. Common Cause was built on the belief that
individuals working together can change the world. Its successes have come from
persistence and the strength of unified citizen voices.
Common Cause could never have won its important
victories in the fight against corruption in government without the lobbying of many, many
members. Your effort could tip the scale and help change a vote!
More Articles on Social
Top of Page | Home
Page | Site Guide
This web page and entire website ©
Copyright: 1997 - 2015 by Hearts and Minds Network,
http://www.heartsandminds.org/articles/lobby.htm - latest
text changes May 26, 2010