Student Lobbying Guide
Why Lobby?: Influencing Policy Change WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
noun, plural lob·bies,verb, lob·bied, lob·by·ing.
1. a group of persons who work or conduct a campaign to influence members of a legislature to vote according to the group's special interest.
Lobbying is your easiest way, as a constituent, to tell your elected officials how you feel about a certain topic, influence policy change, and play a part in the political process. While more difficult than sending them a letter, visiting your Members of Congress, or their staff, face-to-face is the most effective way to actually influence them. Individuals and groups can arrange personal meetings with Senators and Representatives either in their Washington offices, or in their local offices at various times during the year. To find out when your Senator or Representative will be in their local office, you can: call their local office, check their web site (House) (Senate), get on their mailing list. Whether you arrange to meet with your elected officials in Washington or their local offices, here are some rules to follow:
Making an Appointment: This is just common sense and courtesy. All Congressional offices in Washington require a written appointment request. Some Members do offer "walk-in" meeting times in their local offices, but an appointment request is still highly recommended. Appointment requests can be mailed, but faxing them will get a faster response. Members' contact information, phone and fax numbers can be found on their web sites (House) (Senate). The appointment request should be short and simple. Consider using the following template: [Your Address] [Date] The Honorable [full name] U.S. Senate (or U.S. House of Representatives) Washington, DC 20510 (20515 for House) Dear Senator (or Representative) [last name]: I am writing to request an appointment with you on [date]. I am a member of the [your group, if any] in [your city], and I'm concerned about [issue]. I realize that your schedule is difficult to project at this point, but it would be ideal if we could meet between [time] and [time]. I believe [issue] is important because [1-2 sentences]. My home address is [address]. I can also be reached by phone at [phone number] or email at [email address]. I will contact your office during the week of [1-2 weeks before the visit] to confirm the details of the appointment. Thank you for considering my request to meet with you. Sincerely, [name]
Lobbying: The Basics WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Targeting Legislators Before you can engage with a legislator, you must first know who you are dealing with. When you begin working with your legislator, you must know where they stand on the the particular issue you are lobbying and what type of legislator they are. Lobbying legislators is about persuading them to do what you want through strong dialogue and lobbying actions. There are five main categories of legislators to think about, and each requires its own strategy.
Champions All issues need a group of lawmakers dedicated to being tireless, committed advocates
for your cause. They will always be willing to work with you, and they will rely on their supporters to champion the cause. What they can do for you is make the case to their colleagues, help develop a strong â€œinsideâ€? strategy, and be the visible spokesperson. They will need you to provide them with good information, and visible support outside the capitol.
Allies Another group of legislators that will be on your side, are the allies. They should be
pushed to do more in party caucuses or on the floor. They can also be encouraged to speak out more publicly about the issue. The stronger the visible support from constituents is, the more willing the allies will be. 3.
Fence Sitters Some legislators will be uncommitted on the issues, and have the potential to vote either
way. These legislators should be your key targets.You should form your lobbying strategy around these legislators. It should include the right combination of “inside” persuasion and “outside” pressure to sway them towards your cause. 4.
This group of legislators will be sure to vote against you, but are not inclined to be active
on your issue. With this particular group it is key to keep them from becoming more active on the issue at hand.You want to lobby them without causing them to become agitated or angry. 5.
Hard Core Opponents These lawmakers will be leading the opposition. What is most important here is
isolation.You want to isolate them to highlight the extremes of their own position, rhetoric, and alliances. By doing this you can give lawmakers pause about joining them.
“Inside” vs “Outside” Lobbying Inside Lobbying: One form of lobbying takes place in the Capitol. It includes a mix of the following: -Meetings with lawmakers and legislative staff -Providing analysis and information to committees and legislative offices -Testifying in committee
-Negotiating with policy makers and lobby groups For the most part, this type of lobbying is carried out by or in coordination with advocates who regularly work at the capitol.
Outside Lobbying: An effective lobbying campaign also requires activity outside of the capitol, aimed at shifting politics and pressure around the issue. Some of these activities include: -Media activity including news conferences, editorial board visits, and assisting reporters with stories -Local lobbying visits by constituents and their legislators -Building broad and diverse coalitions -Letter writing campaigns to legislators -Grassroots activities such as rallies, etc. It is important to coordinate “outside” lobbying with “inside” lobbying activities, this assures that they make strategic sense in terms of timing, targeting, messages, etc.
How to Lobby Effectively 1.
Establish your agenda and goals
-Know what subject you are going to address. Don’t overload with the issues--stick to no more than two issues at a time. -Decide what you would like to get out of the visit. (i.e., a commitment to vote, legislative sponsorship, leadership, or information on the issues) -Allow time for small talk at the outset, but not too much. Remember, it’s YOUR visit. -If it is a group visit, decide who will start the discussion and put the agenda on the table.
-Much of lobbying is listening, looking for inclinations of elected official’s views, and finding opportunities to provide good information. -If you are meeting with a “silent type”, try to draw him/her out by asking questions -If you are confronted with a “long-winded type”, look for openings to bring her/him back to the point. 3.
Be prepared, but don’t feel that you need to be an expert.
-Most elected officials are generalists, like many of us. Do your homework, but don’t feel the need to know every angle of the issue. Air personal feelings and experiences where appropriate and try to relate the concerns of friends and the community. -Know when to admit, “I don’t know”, and offer to follow up with more information. -Be open to counter-arguments, but don’t get stuck on them. Don’t be argumentative or confrontational. 4.
Don’t stay too long.
-Try to get closure on your issue. If you hear what you hoped for, express your thanks and leave. If you reach an impasse, thank him/her, even if disappointed, and say so. Leave room to continue the discussion in the future. 5.
Always remember to dress appropriately.
-You are meeting with you elected official, and you want to look the part.You want to look nice, but don’t overdo it. Dress like you are going to an important job interview or business function. 6.
Remember to follow up.
-Make sure to get a business card from the staffer handlng your issue before you leave. -Offer to keep in touch on the issue, and offer yourself as a future resource. -Write a brief thank you email to the member and/or staffer you met with mentioning the date and subject of your meeting. -Inform SSDP’s national staff about the results of your meeting
Special thanks to The Connecticut Association of Nonprofits for lobbying information. http://www.ctnonprofits.org/ ----------------------------------------
More About the Issues: www.ssdp.org (Students for Sensible Drug Policy) ssdp.org/blog (SSDP Blog) www.drugpolicy.org (Drug Policy Alliance) www.maps.org (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic studies) www.norml.org (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) http://www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/index.html (ACLU's Drug Policy site) www.stopthedrugwar.org (Drug Reform Coordination Network) www.leap.cc (Law Enforcement Against Prohibition) www.drugwarrant.com (Drug Policy Reform Blog) SSDP Student Organizing Manual: http://ssdp.org/resources/ssdp-student-organizing-manual.pdf
This is a how-to-guide incorporating all you need to know to lobby your elected officials today!