Advice on how to get members of Congress to actually listen to you


#1

Originally published at: http://boingboing.net/2017/01/19/advice-on-how-to-get-members-o.html


#2

A kind word and a $5,000 campaign contribution speak louder than a kind word.


#3
  1. Contact the right level of government. Don’t call Congress about your city sidewalks, don’t call your state representative about the Affordable Care Act, and don’t call the city about education funding.

  2. Contact your own legislator and include your address. If you really want to target another legislator (chair of a key committee, for example), organize your friends and relatives who live in that district to contact them. Out of district contacts are ignored.

  3. Be specific, polite, and brief. No need to get into a long explanation of why you do or don’t support the issue-- staff should already be familiar with it. Stick to one issue at a time.

  4. Email, call, or go in person to a townhall. Members of Congress attend lots of community and party functions where you can say a few words to them (Labor Day picnics, MLK Day celebrations, etc). You can also request a face-to-face meeting with a legislator or their staff, especially if you organize a whole group of people. Don’t be shy-- the worst that can happen is they say they are busy.

  5. Faxes and paper letters are better than nothing, but less likely to get a timely response.

Edited to add: 6. Understand who controls what. Unless your legislator is the committee chair for the bill, they can’t schedule a hearing on it. They can ask the committee chair to do that, but that isn’t likely to help if the chair is from the other party. Likewise, only the Speaker can bring a bill up for a vote on the House floor-- and is not likely to listen to minority members in setting those priorities. At a minimum, check which party your legislator belongs to and which party holds the majority in the state or federal legislative chamber they belong to. Committee chairs belong to the majority. Otherwise, you will not have a realistic picture of where to apply pressure.


#4

That’s clever, but not really relevant. Rep. Israel downplays letters and phone calls, but I’ve heard that a big enough pile gets attention. If the intern says the phones are ringing off the hook, that matters, although lobbyists matter too. And he’s right about Tea Party tactics. A lot of Republican representatives are skipping town halls altogether rather than answer angry questions about the Obamacare repeal. The fears this time are actually real - but the tactics will never again be
"unprecedented."


#5

Calls are nice because you can try to extract a more definite response right there and then. But emails get a more considered answer. Sometimes the response is still noncommittal, but sometimes they are more willing to give a definite answer in the approved email response than the intern answering the phones is authorized to be.


#6

Talking to them assumes that they actually show up where the public can get at them. From experience, the only times my “representatives” appear in their districts have been either invitation-only fundraisers or prepared-speech events with no provision for anyone but the Great Man Himself allowed to say a word.

There are websites that let you search for “town hall” events for your State or District – I looked for years for Schweikert to have a “town hall” that wasn’t invitation-only. McCain, of course, basically flew from Sky Harbor to his wife’s ranch.


#7


#8

Which is why even a well-intentioned congressperson is more likely to be influenced by the people who can afford to attend lavish fundraisers where they get face time with the representatives. Who we interact with most largely shapes our perceptions.


#9

I’d tell you; but influence is a zero sum game.


#10

I’m firmly in the camp of skipping over all the “communication” and going right to abducting family members, and making the politician screw a pig on national TV.


#11

There are a lot of helpful sites out there, but for US Congress stuff, my current PerSav is GovTrack.

https://www.govtrack.us/about


#12

go to an event? really? My congress-critters are on the OTHER coast, and once elected? seldom spend time anywhere near us the “unwashed masses”

money. and lots of it. seems to be the only way to get attention

#TheSystemIsBroken


#13

There might be other opportunities. I’ve never donated to a Congressional campaign, but I’ve run into my representative twice in the last month without even trying-- once at an environmental group’s holiday party and once at the local university’s MLK commemoration. I have also met with the staff of more than one federal senator and representative to talk about specific bills and strategies, just by organizing a group of friends to work on the issue and asking for an appointment. No campaign contributions needed or expected. Staff are very influential in shaping legislators’ opinions and actions.

I guarantee your congresscritter has an in-district office, so you wouldn’t have to go to DC.If you’re really frustrated and unable to get on the schedule, you can always show up in a big group, refuse to leave, and livestream the whole thing.


#14

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