[AAACE-NLA] How to Connect with National Legislators
dwyoho at earthlink.net
Fri Jan 9 11:56:59 EST 2004
Dear Friends: I strikes me that it might be useful to share some of what I
have learned so far about connecting with national congresspersons and
senators to open a dialog about our Cause. I am an absolute neophyte, and
have learned little by little, and am still learning. Some of what I now
know I discovered the hard way, and this very basic info would have been
nice to have at the beginning. So, if your only experience with political
advocacy has been the standard letter-writing, or if you've never had the
nerve to step out and join forces with those of us who are sounding the
alarm, this message is for you.
1. Get over any awe you have of these folks. They all put their pants on
the same way you do. Remember they need you as much as you need them.
1a. Remember that these people are only part-time legislators. They
divide their time between home and DC. They are usually home or travelling
on Mondays and Fridays, and are home in the summer and around holidays.
Once you have connected with their offices (see below), you can call and
ask "Where is the Senator today? Should I send this info to DC or to....?"
2. Use the internet to find basic contact information. Most Congressmen
and Senators have their own websites. Just go to Google and type in, for
example, "Congressman......" and their site will pop right up.
3. Take note on the website of how the legislator's offices are organized.
Congressmen and senators may have several offices around the state. Note
the one nearest you.
4. Keep a folder for each of the legislators you are trying to influence.
For instance, I have one for each of two Congressmen from my local area,
one for each Senator, one for the Governor's office, and one each for my
local state senator and rep. Keep a running record in each folder of every
letter and every call you make.
5. Key people include the legislator's state director (your best local
contact), the scheduler, and the legislative aide for education. The state
director is usually based in the capital of the state, and the LA usually
is in the Washington office. However, there may be an LA at the local
level as well. There may be two schedulers, one in Washington and another
at home. The first time you call any office, get these people's names,
fax, email and direct phone number and write this down in the folder. Want
to invite the legislator to visit your program when (s)he is home? Talk to
the local scheduler. Want to see the legislator while in Washington? Talk
to the DC office. Want to state your case on the WIA? Connect with the
6. When dealing with local people, be alert to local connections. For
instance, I discovered that the state director for one of our congressmen
is married to the director of another United Way agency, and I see her
often. It doesn't hurt to say "Say hello to Robert" whenever I see her.
Another person, an LA, is in my Rotary club.
7. I got the most action when I talked personally with the "state
director" for each of my national legislators.
8. Be alert to occasions when the legislator is home and speaking in your
area. Call the office and ask when and if occasions are scheduled that you
can get into. Attend. Then draw attention to our Cause by asking a
pointed question during the question period, stating your name and agency
first of course. If you haven't the nerve yet to do this in front of a
whole group, hang around afterwards and shake hands. Usually they are in a
hurry to leave at this point, but you can look him or her in the eye, and
speak your name and agency name clearly. Then say "I'm pleased to meet
you, and hope we can talk about adult education in the future when you have
more time." Then FOLLOW UP within a week by contacting one of the key
people by phone, and say, "I met the Congressman when he spoke at Rotary
last Wednesday." You'll be surprised how this will get you remembered.
9. Persist. These folks are busy. But they are used to being hounded and
realize you are serious about your cause if you keep at it.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is all I have learned so far. I pass it on
for whatever use anyone can make of it. Best, Debbie
Deborah W. Yoho
Co-moderator, NIFL-Health Listserv
President, SC Adult Literacy Educators
Executive Director, Greater Columbia Literacy Council
2728 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29205
803-765-2555 Fax 803-779-8417 dwyoho at earthlink.net
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