Patricia A. O'Malley

Social Policy & Programs Consulting

Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice


​​Contact Your Legislators
Our schools are supposed to teach this stuff, but they don't want you to know it.
April 18, 2018








 

How many of those irritating “Make Congress do what we want.  Sign our petition today” messages did you get in your email today?  How many have you e-signed?  They’re popular, but they’re the least effective way to get your representatives’ attention.  What’s the best way?


Americans who have suggestions, complaints, or problems involving the government, are told to “write to your Congressman”.  It’s a shame that far too few people take that advice; it actually does work.  They do read the mail and messages.  And they do reply, although it’s usually via a generic form letter.  They also employ staff members whose duties include handling constituents’ bureaucratic complaints.  So yes, you can contact them if your Social Security checks have mysteriously stopped, or the post office won’t deliver your mail, or whatever.

There are nine methods of contacting elected officials; some work better than others.
Here’s the list, from most to least effective.

  1. A personal visit with your representative.  Yes, members can and often do meet with private citizens, although their time may be scarce.  Call for an appointment.  Take a few friends for more impact.

  2. A personal visit with the staff.  Professional staff members have expertise in particular areas.  Legislators rely heavily on their knowledge and opinions.  And yes, your message does get through.

  3. Attend a town hall meeting in person.  They’re rarely as contentious as those you’ve seen on the news.  Usually, few people attend, and you have the chance to make your point and have a real conversation.

  4. Participate in a telephone or online town hall conference meeting.  I find them distracting and difficult to follow, but it’s an effort to make better use of time and technology.

  5. Write and send a personal letter, by US mail or fax.  Fax works better.  Every piece of paper mail is checked for bombs and toxins before it’s delivered to federal officials.  That delays it for about two months.  Yes, really.  The members don’t see all of the mail, but the staff log and summarize each letter and report the content to the members.  If the website contact information doesn’t list a fax number, call the office and ask for it.

  6. Call the member’s office.  The member is rarely available to speak to constituents by phone.  However, staff members specialize in various issue areas, and you can ask for the specialist who handles the topic of your concern.

  7. Website contact form or personal email.  Again, they’re all read, logged, and reported.

  8. Sign a mass form letter on paper.  They’re noted and reported.

  9. E-sign an online viral petition or message.  The organizations that sponsor these things use them only to harvest email addresses so they can spam signers for money.  These petitions are more effective at raising money for a cause than for convincing legislators to change public policy.You can also display messages on clothing, bumper stickers, signs, etc.  While they’re not one-on-one contact, the members do see them.  And participate in demonstrations.


The idea is that your message will have more influence when you put more effort into sending it.
Click the links for the contact information for:

President Donald Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500
(Phone) 202-456-1414
(Fax) 202-456-2461

Congress consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
There is no such thing as “Congress and the Senate”.
Go to Congress.govto find out what they're up to.
Call the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to reach any member of Congress.

 
Two US Senators represent each state.  Find names and contact information here.
U.S. Senate
Capitol Building
Washington, DC  20510

House of Representatives members are apportioned to each state by population.
Each state has at least one member.
Find yours in the search box in the upper right corner of the website.
U.S. House of Representatives
Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20515

USA.gov has links to every State, Local, and Tribal Government in the U.S.

 

I’ve met with legislators and staff members from all levels of government and both political parties for 35 years.  As much as I agree with some and disagree with others, I can say that most are intelligent, hardworking, capable people who take their jobs seriously.

So, now you can contact everyone about everything that’s on your mind.  
Ask them what their positions are on the issues that concern you.
Tell them what you want from them.
But while doing that, know that what you’re doing is called lobbying.

That’s right.
Lobbying is not what the politicians and media tell you it is.  "Giving buckets of money to legislators" is not lobbying.  Lobbying is the act of trying to convince elected officials to support or oppose legislation and policies that you care about. 

Lobbying is the only thing that can restore our democracy.  Our schools are supposed to teach this stuff, but they don't want you to know that YOU have the power to influence your government. 

Every victory that occurs is the direct result of lobbying.  Nothing moves in government unless someone pushes it. Legislators listen to corporate lobbyists because they are the only ones doing the talking.

If you want your representatives to listen to you, then start talking to them. 

If the 99% would do more lobbying, the 1% would have less power. 

Lobbying is more important than voting. 
Everyone can do it. 
And it doesn't cost a dime. 

For more information:
League of Women Voters
Community Matters:  Lobbying
USA.gov


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Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting    ~    Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803    ~    Pittsburgh, PA  15227   ~    412-310-4886    ~    info@patomalley-consulting.com
Copyright Patricia A. O'Malley    ~    All rights reserved

Established 1993