The single best way to influence Congress is to have their constituents identify a concern and express how it will impact their daily lives. Most members of Congress want to continue to represent their state and listen to those who voted for them. By establishing a personal relationship with your representatives and letting them know how you feel on issues, your concerns will be taken into account.
Don't stop with just your own Representative and Senators, either. You can make an impact with members of Congress in other districts of your own state, as well as members from other states. Private property and multiple-use issues are nationwide issues. Each member of Congress has the opportunity to decide the fate of any and all legislation that enters Committee or goes to the floor for a vote. Below are some tips to lobby effectively:
- Identify undecided Representative or Senator. Determine the factors that affect his/her decision-making process (i.e., are they most responsive to constituent interests, media, other politicians, party leadership, emotional appeals, or a combination).
- Enlist registered voters in the official's district as your activist base (if you don't already have one). The best places to find people of similar interests are in associations, civic groups, Chambers of Commerce, etc.
- Educate your base group. Provide factual, specific information on your issue. Offer talking points and examples that individuals can use when talking with their Member. Also give them as much opposition information as you have available.
- Have each activist recruit others to participate. There is strength in numbers. Can you imagine the impact of having 100+ individuals contacting a single member of Congress with the same message?
- Arrange personal meetings with your Representative and Senators. A face-to-face meeting impresses your sincere interest and dedication to your issue. This does not necessarily mean you have to make a trip to DC. Each member of Congress spends time in their own district and state. And do not be put off if you "only" get to see a staff member. They are the people that advise the delegate about issues and do any research required.
- Follow-up with a letter. After your meeting, you should send a letter thanking the Member for his/her time. It should be signed by all who attended your meeting. Restate your issue, concern and position. A copy of this letter would make a good Letter-to-the-Editor, as well. If it gets published, send a copy of the newspaper to your Member.
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