Who & Where to Lobby
As a continuation of Lobbying 101 we now explore “who & where to lobby”. There is no restriction on how many members of Congress or your state legislature or a city council you may lobby. You will find, however, that your own state congressional delegation or your state senator or representative—those who are there to represent your interests—will be the most responsive.
Take Congress as the example: support or opposition can have the greatest influence at the committee level. Members of Congress who are not members of the committee handling your legislation have far less influence on how it is shaped. If your congressional member sits on a committee that is considering your issue, your lobbying will be crucial.
If your state is not represented on the committee, ask your congressman to speak with the chairman or members of the committee and endorse your position.
Remember, a bill must be passed by both the House and the Senate. If your representative is not sympathetic to an issue, lobby your senator and vice versa
Where to Lobby
Washington, D.C., Office: Your first communication to the office of a member of Congress is likely to be directed to the legislative assistant who handles your issue. The receptionist may not immediately know who that is, unless your member has consistently been involved with your immediately relevant issue.
- Legislative assistants are generally scrambling to assemble briefings on short deadlines and not inclined to engage in extensive discussions or policy debates with constituents.
- They want concise, well-organized presentations, including material on how this issue plays out in their member’s district.
- They do not want long position papers that will take huge amounts of time to read and then summarize.
- They are busy and focused on short-term demands, so if your issue is way off in the future, they will be less interested in speaking with you.
- Keep your communications short and to the point, letting them extend the discussion if they become interested.
- District Office: Senators may have six or so offices around their state. A congressman in a small district would only have one, in a larger district, two or three.
Staff members who work in the district office are not directly involved in the legislative process, however, they are a valuable lobbying resource. The district office is readily accessible and the staff is familiar with local issues. Usually the district director or another senior advisor is the member’s eyes and ears in the district and provides important feedback on the priority of local issues. The member’s schedule in his home district is usually arranged by these offices as well. Use District folks often.
Author Martin Milita, a Senior Director at Duane Morris Government Strategies, is a member of the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Bars and has lobbied state and federally and in Canada.
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