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anonymous Action-Taking Advice June 09, 2006 4:54 PM

Phone Calls

Telephoning is especially useful when time is short; e.g. just before an important vote. In most cases, you will not speak directly with your senator or representative, however offices keep a "count" of constituent calls and that information is passed on to the congressperson.

  • Talk with "Washington." If you call the local office, ask the staffer who takes your message to pass it on to their Washington office. A more effective approach is to call the legislator's Washington office directly and ask to talk to the person on staff who deals with your issue. Or you can do both.

  • Introductions. Identify yourself as a constituent. If you talk to a legislative aide, be sure to write down his/her name for future reference or for a follow-up letter.

  • Be succinct. As with letter-writing, focus on one topic, articulate your position and ask your legislator's position on the issue of concern.

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anonymous  June 09, 2006 4:55 PM

Faxes and E-mails

Faxes and email should follow the same outline as letters. Sending a fax can be especially helpful when a vote is imminent and there is not enough time for a letter. It is as fast as a phone call while providing a written record of your communication. In view of some ongoing mail delays because of tighter security after September 11, 2001, faxes are a good way to ensure timely delivery of your views.

A growing number of members of Congress have email. E-mail are not treated with as much weight as letters, faxes or phone calls, however. If you use e-mail, be sure to include your postal mailing address so it is clear that your reside in your memberís district, and to enable the office to send you a postal mail response. The best way to e-mail your members of Congress is to go to their Web pages and follow the instructions for contacting them by e-mail. You must be a constituent to use this method. Members' Web sites and fax numbers can be accessed by visiting and

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anonymous  June 09, 2006 4:56 PM


Visiting a legislator's office, either locally or in Washington, D.C., is the most effective way for a citizen to do advocacy. Visits provide an opportunity to build a rapport with the congressperson or staff person. Congressional recesses are an excellent time to meet locally with your legislator. But in many ways speaking with a staff person is just as important since they play an influential role in legislative decision-making.

  • Schedule ahead. To schedule a visit, write or phone ahead (preferably at least two weeks in advance), specifying the issue you wish to discuss. Also, mention a preferred date and length of the meeting, and number of people coming. Confirm the date with a letter.

  • Strategize. If you are visiting as a group, your group should plan to meet prior to the visit and identify the most important things you want to convey. Research in advance the current status of the legislation, the pros and cons of the argument, and the member's voting record and committee assignments.

  • Assign roles. In a group it is often helpful to appoint spokesperson(s) who are responsible for explaining the issue and making the group's specific request, and a "moderator" who ensures that the visit is a conversation. The discussion should not be monopolized by either the legislator or the group.

  • Introduce yourself. Have each person introduce him/herself. If appropriate, identify your affiliation with an organization.†Be flexible. You should be prepared for both a 90 second meeting as well as a 20 minute meeting. It's not uncommon for the schedules of legislators and their aides to change at the last minute. Be prepared to get your point across even if you don't have as much time as anticipated.

  • Be honest and respectful. It's alright to respond to a legislator's question by admitting you don't know. Offer to find out and send information back to the office. Be polite and respectful, but don't be afraid to disagree.

  • Ask questions. Ask what his/her position is on the legislation and why. Ask if they are hearing from opponents or supporters and what they are saying. Ask what will influence their decision on this issue.

  • Leave materials. It is useful to bring supporting materials or position papers to leave with the person you meet.

  • Write a follow-up letter. After the meeting, write a letter thanking the legislator for the meeting. Reiterate your position and your understanding of any commitments made during the meeting.

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anonymous  July 30, 2006 1:06 PM

Great info for activists and links from the Rainforest Action Network.

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anonymous  August 20, 2006 2:21 PM

I have found that when writing letters or calling - do not use a negative tone.

Clearly state the facts and if possible, try to use good diction. Make them feel you are educated in the topic.

"I don't think ya'll not what the **** you are do'n over there!" Is NOT going to get your point across seriously.

So if you are calling - write out and practice what you are going to say first. It helps!


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