Actions you can take to build support for Constitutional government
Written by Art Harman, Policy Analyst A project of Americans for Constitutional Liberty
Here's how you can take effective action to let your elected representatives know how you want them to vote on important issues, as well as ways to spread the message to other citizens so they may take action too.
We can restore the Constitutional government our Founding Fathers intended only by educating the public and holding our representatives accountable for their votes. You've come to the right place!
The Conservative Caucus is dedicated to researching effective methods to cut our government to it's Constitutionally authorized size and power, as well as watching for dangerous legislation--whether sponsored by Democrats or Republicans. Then we alert citizens to these issues and how they can best take action.
Please read the many issue briefings, publications, and historical documents which are available at our site. Then visit our "Take Action" page for specific actions you can do to fight big government.
Join our Conservative Action Alert network to receive notice when legislative action is needed.
Our "Right" Links page will take you to many excellent conservative organizations who themselves have resources of information available on-line; and you will also find many sites useful for researching the issues, including: newspapers; copies of bills (don't take the media's word as whether a particular bill is beneficial or destructive for our country--read the bill on-line); government agencies; and much more. Monitor Congressional voting records on key issues so you won't be fooled by political rhetoric and promises: their actual votes are often quite opposite!
You will find many well known 'conservatives' routinely vote for big government and higher taxes, and unless conservatives hold them accountable, they will continue voting against our wishes--and against their own rhetoric. You are also encouraged to thank your representatives when they vote correctly.
The Library of Congress' Thomas has all recorded votes and copies of all bills. The following pages outline concrete steps you can take starting today!
CITIZEN LOBBYING KIT
KEEPING A PROMISE
President Trump promised to appoint constitutionally-sound judges, and he is keeping that promise.
ANOTHER ROUND OF WELFARE REFORM COMING
The Trump administration is prepared for welfare reform, more than 20 years after the last time.
TCC CALLS FOR FLAT TAX THIS YEAR
It appears that Congress will soon take up the matter of tax reform, and the economic health of our nation may be determined by the outcome.
The current complex system requires many Americans to use a professional preparer, a waste of resources that could be ended by a simpler and fairer system.
What we need is a flat rate income tax and the elimination of most deductions. This would not only make filing taxes easier and quicker, it would give Americans greater confidence that the system is fair, with everyone paying his or her share.
The economy would also benefit from such a tax reform. Instead of making spending and investment decisions based on the incentives in the tax code, those decisions would be made according to the incentives of the market. Economic growth would receive a much-needed stimulus, producing more jobs.
Replacing our current system with a simple flat tax will not be easy. The well-connected special interests will fight hard to preserve their special privileges. President Reagan had to compromise and accept a more modest reform in 1986. Let’s get it right this time.
Peter J. Thomas
Americans for Constitutional Liberty
BLACK LIVES MATTER AGAIN IGNORES TRUTH
"Riot first, and ask questions later" is how Rich Lowry describes the Black Lives Matter movement.
LIBERAL DEMOCRATS KNOW TERRORISM IS THEIR WEAK POINT WITH VOTERS
Democrats are worried that the terrorism issue may hurt them in November. However, according to this article, their private concerns are about how to "look good" on the issue, rather than taking better policy positions.
RELEASED FROM GUANTANAMO TO KILL AMERICANS
ACL CALLS FOR LEADERSHIP AGAINST ISLAMIC TERRORISTS
December 10, 2015
Facing the deadly threat of radical Islamic terrorism, this nation needs leadership that is realistic and effective. The President’s ideological straightjacket leaves him unable even to recognize the enemy. His belief that American military action makes the world worse forces him to adopt only small, symbolic measures that cannot be successful.
The President insists that we bring Syrian refugees to the United States rather than assisting them at a location the Middle East. He tells us that they will be carefully vetted even while his FBI director admits that the necessary information is lacking. He assures us that we should not fear terrorists among women and children, while Tashfeen Malik and the Tsarnaev brothers prove him wrong.
The flow of refugees from danger zones must be halted. The entry of those Muslims who cannot be subjected to thorough background checks must be put on hold until our capabilities improve.
Most important, the US must take military action to eliminate all hope of creating a new caliphate. It is this dream that motivates terrorists here and abroad. Removing it will remove their motivation.
This will require listening to the best advice that America’s military leaders can provide. Allies should be encouraged to join us, but the US must do what is necessary to carry out a winning strategy against the Islamic State.
Peter J. Thomas
Chairman, Americans for Constitutional Liberty
MAJOR GOLSTEYN NEEDS YOUR HELP
Major Matt Golsteyn is a graduate of West Point who earned the rank of US Army Major in the Green Berets. He commanded US Special Forces teams during two tours of duty in Afghanistan. His awards for valor include the Silver Star and a recommendation for the Distinguished Service Cross, our nation's second highest award for valor. He is highly respected by his fellow officers and by the men who served under his command.
Why have Barack Obama's civilian Pentagon bureaucrats stripped him of his Silver Star and attempted to force him out of the army?
Major Golsteyn, who risked his life to protect us, now needs our help. We must support Rep. Duncan Hunter's effort to obtain justice for Major Golsteyn.
If you would like to learn more about Major Golsteyn's case, see the articles linked to below.
THE CONSERVATIVE CAUCUS IS NOW AMERICANS FOR CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY
The Conservative Caucus (TCC) is now Americans for Constitutional Liberty (ACL).
After much discussion, the Board of Directors decided that the new name would more clearly describe to the general public and potential supporters the mission of the organization. A revised mission statement, “providing nonpartisan grassroots leadership in support of constitutional liberty, limited government, and American independence”, was also approved.
We had found that the word “Caucus” confused many people. Some did not know what a caucus was, while others assumed that TCC was an organization of conservative members of Congress.
Americans for Constitutional Liberty more specifically declares our focus on the U.S. Constitution, which has been a hallmark of the organization ever since its founding in 1974.
The name also clearly defines the liberty which we seek to defend as that of the Founding Fathers, based on Biblical truths and spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is not the more modern, secular, and ever-changing liberty of the “progressives”, which often deprives us of our liberty. Americans for Constitutional Liberty seeks to reduce the size of the Federal government within its constitutional limits, enforce the separation of powers between the three branches, and to protect Americans from both foreign enemies and an overpowering government.
GET OTHERS INVOLVED
Encourage people and conservative groups to be more involved in lobbying for Constitutional government. America has strayed far from a government which strictly follows the Constitution, and our freedoms are endangered by every such departure, large or small. Restoration of the Constitution must come from citizens demanding a return, otherwise our leaders will see no reason to oppose the powerful interests promoting big government.
Ronald Reagan was famous for saying "If not us, who? If not now, when?" Our Founding Fathers knew from studying history that our freedom must not be taken for granted; that it must be defended continually and fought for when attacked; that Americans must be taught their responsibilities; and that government will not keep the people free--the people must keep the government free.
Pass the word to friends, email lists and political acquaintances to visit our web sites: www.ConservativeUSA.org and take advantage of our information, lobbying tools, and action items. For more information and ideas, call our office at 540-219-4536.
DISTRIBUTE VOTING RECORDS
Nothing hurts the guilty more than the light of truth. Few Congressmen and perhaps no Senator votes 100% of the time for Constitutional government. A vote for the Federal budget alone is a vote for uncounted thousands of ways to violate the Constitution. Planned Parenthood gets millions a year from the Federal government, and many supposedly pro-life legislators vote every year for the appropriations which include that funding and do not fight to remove such funding in the first place. Votes to confirm pro-abortion judges are often largely uncontested.
But do the citizens in your district or state know how your elected representatives really vote?
Research the voting records of your elected Federal, state and local elected officials and spread the word! Create a website or blog to not only list their votes, but to explain to the public in easy to understand terms what each vote means in terms of lost freedom, higher taxes, higher national debt, aborted babies, jobs lost to Red China, higher crime and taxes due to unlimited illegal immigration, weaker defense, etc. Encourage people to email voting records to their friends and to distribute printed copies to the public.
Congressmen and Senators face intense "party discipline"--harsh punishment against those who resist the leadership's orders to vote for the most important big-government bills, job-destroying treaties (like WTO, NAFTA & CATFA), freedom-robbing bills like the Patriot Act, and the 2013 Schumer/Rubio illegal immigration amnesty/citizenship bill. They are also lavished with promises of pork spending and leadership advancement if they succumb to the pressure. The leadership post of "Whip" is exactly that--one who "whips" his members into party-line voting. The White House, Congressional leadership and the parties can all exert severe punishment as well as rewards when they really need the votes. Threats can include losing party campaign funds; losing pork spending projects; losing campaign visits by the President, officials, celebrities; getting a primary challenger; and being stripped of committee or leadership posts. Rewards of course include billions in extra pork spending, more campaign funds from the party, better committee assignments, and increased party/White House campaign participation. "Smoke-filled room" politics survives even though the rooms are now "smoke-free".
Read Rep. Defazio's rebuff of threats from Obama and Pelosi
Read ABC News' account of how Rep. Robin Hayes sold out his North Carolina textile-working constituents to vote for the CAFTA jobs-destruction treaty.
Steven Yates describes more CAFTA vote arm-twisting.
Ron Paul describes how CAFTA vote-buying cost taxpayers $50 billion.
Read Rep. Don Young (R-AK) insisting your tax dollars are "my money, my money!" and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), admitting "We legally steal."
The 'Bridge To Nowhere', $315 million. Pork-barrel spending, billions more. Hearing a Member of Congress admit "We legally steal" ... Priceless!
Many elected officials also fear the front page of their liberal home-state newspaper even more than the voters--who may be un-informed or mis-informed by the media and schools on the true significance of the issue.
Those who successfully resist their party, the special interests, and the liberal media include those with strong backbones PLUS those who can point to great citizen support: "I have 20,000 petitions from my constituents demanding that I vote to save jobs in my district, so I must respectfully vote against the trade treaty." Your lobbying actions as described on this page, and your holding them to account for their votes as described in this section can help give them the support--the spine--to escape or survive punishment for opposing their party or the White House!
Imagine the positive effect of a conservative website or blog in each Congressional District exposing the unconstitutional votes of their Congressman, and praising their Constitutional votes! Build them and we'll link to them!
"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world’s estimation, and publicly and privately in season and out, avow their sympathies with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences." Susan B. Anthony
KNOW THE MEDIA
Particularly if you are frequently organizing meetings, news conferences, or other events where you would like media coverage, it pays to make an effort to meet and get to know TV, radio and print reporters and editors, and talk show hosts. In small communities, this can be quite easy, and the liberal bias may be less of a problem. Show up at their office (or call and set up an appointment) and ask to talk to the reporters, editors, and talk hosts who deal with local political issues; explain what you are doing or describe your organization, give them some background information, and invite their questions. Ask how you can help them. Get their email and fax so you can send news releases, photos and statements directly to them. The reporters at your all-news radio station will be particularly valuable to talk to or meet.
It may be tougher to actually meet the reporters, editors, and talk hosts at large papers or radio & television stations due to security, schedules and workload--and certainly liberal bias; but the effort can pay off and you certainly can talk to them on the phone. Study the papers to learn those who write fairly and those who frequently write attack pieces, and act accordingly when you speak to them. Keep in mind that there are plenty of fair and honest reporters who will gather interviews in good faith, only to have a liberal editor completely change the story--to turn a good story into a hatchet job. When being interviewed, don't necessarily trust statements such as "this is going to be a positive story" (they actually may say this!) unless you actually know the reporter and the editorial slant of the paper.
The payoff comes later, when you are organizing an event: your news release or phone call may get more attention as they will recognize your name or organization. "Hey, Joe; we're having a news conference next week" is far better than "Are you the person who assigns reporters?--we're having a news conference..."
Small papers may appreciate having you send them photos and reports about other events of interest, and especially achievements of local residents; and this can further cultivate a good relationship. Many news websites have an email or "report news" link, so take advantage of it to report news of a conservative nature or even some good news!
Don't necessarily expect reporters to honor "off the record" statements; and act as if they mean you harm, at least until you learn if they can be trusted. See #12 above for tips on avoiding statements which can be easily taken out of context.
Countless people have been fooled by reporters saying "this won't be a negative story" or "trust me," only to deeply regret it when the attack piece hits the newsstands with quotes and mis-quotes taken out of context, and text that falsely paints them or their organization/company as 'public enemy number one.' Thus speak carefully, but don't hesitate to describe your project or issue. You can follow up good or bad reporting with a letter to the editor: offer thanks plus additional information, or state why a hatchet job was wrong and offer the truth. Call the good reporter and thank him, tell him you'll contact him next time you have an event and ask for his email.
Learn the websites and blogs which cover your community or issue, and correspond, "friend," Tweet or meet with their authors as well. They'll appreciate you sending them tips and material as well. Add your comments at existing blogs or start your own.
Communicating to the Media:
Learning how to write a successful news release can make a big difference, as a poorly written one will often get discarded regardless of it's merit. Basically you want a punchy headline, the most important details and names at the top in concise sentences, a few good, short quotes, and put less important details at the end. Search the web for tutorials on writing a news release: "how to write a news release" finds many pages of tips. The more a release is written like a newspaper story, the more likely it will be considered for use at all.
A "news advisory" can be used to briefly announce an upcoming event, book signing, or an availability for interviews. A "news release" can be used for any event, speech, activity, etc., whether in advance, during or afterwards. "Citizens deliver 1,000 tax-cut petitions to city hall" makes for many media opportunities; for example: a notice a week in advance, another the day before, a release on the day of the event with photos of it, a follow up release the day after, and a letter to the editor soon after.
Create an "electronic press kit" on your website where you have news releases, photos, videos, bios and background info on your organization and the event. Upload event photos and videos immediately after your event. This makes the reporter's job easier.
Major cities will often have a news "daybook" run by AP or other media organizations, where you can call/email/fax a day or more before your event to place your event on a list of events which editors and reporters check to decide what events they want to cover. Daybook info.
If you are planning a conference, meeting, rally, or news conference near Washington, DC, don't miss out on having a C-SPAN camera there. They may also send a free-lancer to important events in other cities. Call them a day in advance and perhaps they will send a camera! www.cspan.org Name-brand speakers--like a Congressman, author, etc; very timely topics; a large audience; and a convenient location all are factors in encouraging C-SPAN and other media to attend.
You should build up an email and fax list of the media in your area. Newspaper and radio/TV station websites will often list email addresses and fax numbers. A press kit can include a news release, photos (better yet: a CD of photos, or the web address for downloading) of your event/projects, biographies of key participants or leaders/speakers at your event, background papers on the organization and the issue(s), and other materials of possible use by the media. Put the contents of the press kit on your website for easy access by reporters, and include the website page in your news release.
A "news actuality" is a short statement or "sound-bite" of a newsmaker which you email or play over the phone to a radio station for them to run. By recording speeches or statements at your events, you can select the very best sound bite to use as an actuality. An MP3 recorder or cassette recorder with a good microphone or wired into your sound system is useful here. A cheap recorder placed far from the speaker will not give you "broadcast quality" sound. Smaller or independent TV and radio stations are more likely to use actualities and VNRs due to their limited staff and budget.
A "video news release" (VNR) is a well-edited bit of video footage from your event, which smaller TV stations just might run as-is, or play the visuals while their reporter describes the event. You shoot, they play.
Blogs and news websites should be a vital part of your communications to the media. You can usually find their email address on their site.
In all cases, get your information to the press rapidly--tomorrow is forever in today's fast-paced news cycle!
You've seen demonstrations of various types on TV, and they can popularize issues and attract additional supporters while also bringing your group closer together in a common purpose. The left is very successful in organizing and staging demonstrations, and you can learn much from them. Whether you have a dozen people in front of city hall to protest a tax hike, a group in front of an abortion chamber, or a thousand people gathered at the Capitol, you are giving the media great visuals. Bring your kids too.
FreeRepublic.com, Tea Party, Ron Paul and similar forums are good starting places to organize a demonstration or counter-demonstration, their members have organized many successful demonstrations. Create an event page on Facebook, Twitter it and use all your social media contacts to their limits. Ask local churches, political committees, and civic organizations to invite their members. Student groups are especially helpful.
A Demonstration should include hand-made signs that are large and clearly readable from a distance, a variety of simple chants or slogans for people to loudly repeat, and people walking. Don't just stand still or be silent, everyone should continually walk back and forth at your location, being sure to keep the signs always facing the street, the media or the public. This creates lots of motion which will look good on television and attract spectators. A megaphone is very helpful. With a crowd and/or media watching, your spokesman can speak for the group, stating the purpose of the demonstration and what you want to be done. Have some signs or a banner with your website on them so people can easily find out more information. Signs encouraging drivers to honk in support works very well! Music can help attract a crowd.
Protesting Evil: Abortion "clinics" as well as embassies and consulates of dictatorships (China, Burma, Sudan, and many more) are frequently the site of demonstrations by life and freedom loving groups. Big signs and photos of victims make for good media shots. You must talk to the police to secure any needed permits and to find out how close to the abortion chamber or embassy you can congregate (often across the street). Note that the abortion chamber or embassy is the visual background for your protest, but it really isn't the audience for your message (abortionists and dictators don't care about protesters or saving lives): the media and the crowd of on-lookers are your real audience, so make sure the signs are facing the media, the street, or the crowd. Exceptions could include when you are appealing to mothers visiting abortion chambers and you are appealing to them to save their child. Include your website on some of your signs.
"Burma Shave" Signs: A variant of a demonstration is to have people hold signs along a busy street or on an overpass to the traffic below. You may see these in the final days before an election promoting a candidate, but they can be used for any issue or slogan. For example, holding signs on July 4th saying "Honk If You Love America" will get a lot of honking! Burma Shave, an old shaving cream company, became famous for their catchy road signs, and the term is still used for this sort of sign display. Put just one or two words on each separate sign in huge letters so it is easy to read, or make very large signs. Humor and rhymes work best on these signs, use the original Burma Shave slogans as examples--make it fun! Permanently-mounted signs can be used too--one example.
Counter-Demonstrations work because the media enjoys creating controversy or wish to present "the other side." Even a handful of people holding up signs in opposition to a left-wing rally may get you some media coverage, sometimes you'll get fully half the coverage! Keep your distance and avoid getting baited into a fight or argument by the leftists. The media will cover a fight but it will destroy your message and credibility; and beware infiltrators from the other side or even the government who might instigate a fight to make your side look bad.
The March for Life
A March differs from a demonstration only in that your group gathers at one location and marches to another. Generally you will need many more people than a stationary demonstration to pull off a good-looking march, and permits may be more complicated to obtain because you will be crossing streets with a large crowd. Lots of signs, many people, and continual chanting of slogans makes it work. The police will assist you with permit information and may provide escorts and block traffic on streets during the march.
Every January on the anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision, the March for Life holds a wonderful march with 500,000 or more people in Washington DC, perhaps the best organized and attended annual march of any kind. Tea Party groups have held huge marches and rallies around the country and in Washington.
"Thought Control Police"
"Street Theater," as the name suggests is sort of like a play being performed in a public area such as a park, on the steps of a government building, or on the sidewalk; where characters possibly in costume, props, music, signs, voices, sound effects, etc. will show people your message. You could plant crosses in a park to illustrate the number of abortions committed in your city in just one year; have people wearing rags and barrels to protest a tax hike; put people in cages to illustrate human rights in China. Have "prostitutes" picketing ACORN headquarters for going into competition with them. Be creative! The media loves this kind of footage--possible example: "A group of local residents pretending to be illegal immigrants held a mock election today outside the city hall to vote for Spanish as the official language for the entire city; they were actually protesting the President's amnesty bill which would allow 100 million immigrants in just 20 years, which could eventually lead to a Spanish-speaking majority in the United States."
Having a well-known person lead the event will help attract the press, spectators and participants.
Campaign Events: In an election year you'll see various groups demonstrating at candidate debates, speeches, etc. Never disrupt a speech--the left does this and it is a sad totalitarian attempt to suppress opposing opinions. Freedom of speech is what makes America great. You can, however, have people hold up signs outside the event on public property where the media are likely to see them, or hand out fliers to people as they arrive and depart.
Media: Always have someone delegated to talk to the media--and to call, email & fax the media in advance with a pre-event news release. A public event without even local media is not very effective. Have a news release at the event and handouts with your contact information. Always take photos, shoot video, and write and distribute a post-event news release--send the video and photos to the media immediately after the event and post to your website. You can put your photos onto a laptop at the scene and burn CDs for any interested media or transfer to the reporter's USB memory stick. Post the video on video-sharing sites like YouTube, and make a digg.com posting to promote it. Even if the media doesn't cover it, the video will get your message to the public via the web.
Getting IN the picture: Television crews may cover your demonstration or a left-wing event where you are counter-demonstrating, and all you may need is a few signs held in view of the camera to make a bit of extra news. Note that the camera will usually be zoomed-in to just a small area, but you can hold signs everywhere the camera may be aimed. A typical shot will be framed to include just the reporter's head and chest, so your signs must be directly behind his head to be in the shot. See example photos for details, and note that this reporter is standing on a foot-high stand to be above the heads of the pro-lifers. Be silent--don't shout or try to disrupt the reporter--that's disrespectful and defeats the whole purpose of being in a usable piece of footage.
Fliers: Make plenty of fliers to give to spectators which include the purpose of the demonstration, what action you want people to take (such as contacting Congress regarding a particular bill), and contact information for your group (be sure to have a website, if only a simple one-page site or blog.
Security and Permits: Delegate sufficient people to handle security: to make sure there are no clashes with people on the other side (who may try to provoke your people); to keep your people from blocking the sidewalks and streets or other areas which must be kept clear; to make sure everyone follows any permit or police restrictions, to handle any health emergencies; and to make sure everyone cleans up the area afterwards. Always discuss your plans with the police in advance and get all needed permits. Be on the watch for anyone who may get violent or try to advocate your people get violent. Violence always destroys your message. The message you want is you are protesting something bad or supporting something good, not "police arrested violent rioters." It is an old tactic for those on the side of evil to plant people in your crowd who's purpose is to discredit your demonstration by instigating violence--keep an eye on total strangers, and call the police if someone starts inciting violence. Obama's thugs created a group called "Crash the Tea Party" which infiltrated Tea Party rallies with nasty signs and tried to make real Americans look bad.
While laws requiring permits for demonstrations or marches are a direct violation of the First Amendment ("Congress shall make NO law..."), the police and courts will enforce them until we have truly Constitutional courts and legislators. As long as you have any needed permits you will usually find the police very helpful and supportive, but if you try it without permits they will just order your event to end, and could even threaten arrests if you resist.
Property Rights: You are generally free to exercise your First Amendment rights on any public property, however if you wish to demonstrate at an event held on private property, be sure to stay on public property such as the sidewalk outside, both out of respect of the property owner's rights as well as to avoid trouble with the law. When on sidewalks be sure not to block the path of pedestrians.
Just the Facts, Ma'am: Never exaggerate the number of people present or make any other misrepresentations to the media. The left may get away with names like "million (fill in blank) march", but that will only invite the media to carefully report on the discrepancy should you try it.
Success: 10 seconds of television coverage and a newspaper photo can make it all worthwhile! 1,000 YouTube views and a top digg.com posting would be great bonuses.
"One man with courage makes a majority" - Andrew Jackson
MAKE A STATEMENT
Ever see newspaper, TV or radio reporters covering an event or looking for footage for the evening news? You may see them outside of city council meetings, candidate debates, a Congressman's town hall meeting, at the scene of anything bad, or just on busy downtown streets; and they often are looking for "man-in-the-street" reactions regarding the event or some issue in the news. When you see them interviewing people on the street, ask them if they would like your comments too. Take advantage of the opportunity to give the conservative view! Note however that they are only looking for reactions to that specific event or issue, not your views on other topics, and here's the vital part:
Particularly on controversial issues, you must be very careful how you say what you want to say, because an editor with an agenda can make it sound like you are on the liberal side.
Bad Example: Reporter on the scene: "Tell us why you are against the mayor's city tax hike--aren't you for a balanced budget?" (leading question)
Your answer: "Yes, I agree we must have a balanced budget; but the mayor must cut spending, not raise our taxes."
What goes on the air: Anchorman: "At today's city council meeting, several local citizens expressed support for the mayor's tax increase, understanding how important it is to balance the budget and protect vital services:" You: "Yes, I agree we must have a balanced budget."
See, it was easy for them to cut out the most important part; they used just part of what you said, and they put your "answer" alongside the anchorman's opposite statement--and everyone watching thinks you're supporting the tax hike! This actually happens, whether on controversial issues, issues where they want to "create" artificial support for their liberal agenda; to make conservative candidates "appear" to say the wrong thing; or to make something decent and honorable appear to be controversial.
This is one of the dangers in talking to the liberal media, so we offer this section to give you the concept of how to make an "un-editable" statement that can't be taken out of context. Practice it some, it's a good skill to have!
Better Example--Your answer: "The mayor's outrageous tax and budget hike must be cut, not the take-home pay of our residents." (Don't say another word, that's a good "sound bite".)
Note that there's no way to cut it to make it sound like you are on the liberal side. They'll either use it as-is or not at all--and they may well use it to present "the other side".
If you only answer the reporter's question (whether it's a leading question or not), and/or give a sentence or even part of a sentence which they can easily use out of context, you must expect that they will. And they won't ask your permission. Make your statement short, punchy and concise; and never say things like "I agree", "that's true", or other phrases which make for easy out-of-context editing. Long statements offer the danger that somewhere in it they will find a couple phrases or a sentence which they can twist to their agenda. One sentence is best! The more questions you answer, the greater the risk; so say one good, short statement, then decline any encouragement to ramble on. If you realize you are saying a sentence or phrase that can be easily taken out of context, quickly say a swear word without any pause so they won't be able to use that sentence, and you can then re-start and say it better.
Don't get trapped into only the extremes. Reporters may ask loaded questions like "Well, if you aren't for amnesty then you're for rounding up millions of illegals and deporting them all, right?" They won't include their question on air, so don't take the bait but just state your case clearly; for example: "We are calling for the effective solution of building a border fence to stop illegals and drug smugglers."
Restate the Question: Your comment will be easier for the media to use if you restate the question or repeat the name/subject being discussed. If asked "What's your opinion about Joe Smith who is running for city council?", don't just answer "He is a liberal who will raise our taxes," but restate the name and office: "Joe Smith is a liberal who will raise our taxes if elected to the city council." This will leave no question to whom or what your comments refer and makes the editor's job easier. If your comments are easier for an editor to fit into a story because they are complete and need no introduction, that improves their chance of using your comments and also makes it tougher for them to use your comments out of context.
Practice: Which statement could an editor take out of context, and how might it end up sounding on the air?
Reporter: "We're standing here at the scene of today's tragic drive-by second-hand-smoke catastrophe, where one reckless man's cigarette hanging out of his car window exposed over 30 school children--perhaps your own children--to a lifetime cut short by deadly carcinogens while they innocently waited for the school bus. "We ask: what can be done to save our children from another atrocity like this?"
Statement A: "You mean passing a law against smoking in cars? That's insane! But second-hand smoke isn't dangerous, everyone smoked when I grew up and we're all healthy. We must get the liberal curriculum out of our schools; now that is something I would support to help our school children."
Statement B: "The real danger to our children is the liberal curriculum in our schools which teaches promiscuity but not reading or morals."
The same principles would hold true if you are holding a news conference or talking to a reporter.
Note the usefulness of statements like: "The real danger..." or "What you are asking is..." Using this sort of transition makes it easy to state YOUR point when asked a question where they are trying to get you to give an answer to fit their agenda, or they are trying to make you look extremist.
You could have a friend video you being interviewed; a cell phone camera would work fine for the purpose. Then if they edit to twist your statement, you can make a short video showing the real interview and the butchered version. Turn the tables on the media!
The liberal media's history of taking comments out of context to "fit" their agenda is just one reason they criticize talk radio, blogs and the internet: They can't stand it when everyone gets to say what they want without any editing, tampering or filtering!
USE TELEVISION - AT NO COST
You can use public access cable television channels and video-sharing websites to broadcast conservative shows, at no or little cost.
For more than twenty years, The Conservative Caucus (now Americans for Constitutional Liberty) produced a weekly television program--Conservative Roundtable.
Video sharing websites like YouTube offer great opportunities for conservatives to spread the message. You can record educational videos on particular issues, record conservative meetings (with permission), make humorous skits or fake commercials, record city council meetings, or interview taxpayers or candidates. Stand outside a post office on April 15th and ask people if they want their taxes increased or cut. Interview people on the street. Ask elected officials to recite any part of the Constitution--shouldn't they know it better than anyone else? (even their refusal may be worth recording: "Well, I, uh, couldn't be expected to know exactly what the 10th Amendment says..."!) Even your brief comments on the day's news can make for a good online video. Production values for such video websites are much more flexible than broadcast television--the amateur look can work well, but make sure your lighting and sound are good. If you are talking to the camera, look right at the camera and try a close-up shot. Use simple, easy to read titles.
You can even video left-wing demonstrations to show their real agenda--show viewers the un-sanitized truth the liberal media always leaves out. At such rallies, you'll often find plenty of Communist and radical banners and signs, offensive t-shirts, Communist and Mexican flags, signs or t-shirts promoting drug use, people burning our flag, people shouting anti-American slogans, etc. It can be funny to see people at a "peace" demonstration shouting-down anyone with an opposing opinion or carrying signs with incredibly hateful messages for their opponents. Interview the participants! Get a signed release from anyone you interview.
Copyrights: Be sure all videos you post online or distribute in any way are ones which you made or have rights to distribute to avoid copyright problems. Post links to videos from other sources.
BUILD A COALITION
Build a coalition by talking to conservative groups, Tea Party or libertarian activists and other online groups, Facebook friends and groups, Twitter followers, churches, business and civic groups, home schoolers, and many other groups to gain their support for your issue. Ask these groups to pass resolutions or to write a letter on their letterhead supporting your issue, and to send copies of their resolution or letter to the local media and to Congressman & Senators. Their members can each do many of the action items on this page, amplifying your efforts. 100 phone calls to a Congressman's office about one bill will be noticed. 10 personal visits or 1,000 calls might switch his vote, particularly on a non-ideologically-polarized bill.
You may find that on some issues, liberal and non-political groups may be on your side for their own, perhaps different, reasons; and by talking and meeting with their staff and activists, you can help build a strong, effective coalition. For example, labor union, human rights, and environmental groups may join you in opposing the North American Union and job-destroying trade treaties. Unions and other groups may also be of assistance in fighting costly global warming "cap and trade" scams, which will bankrupt American families in paying for essential heating, electric and gas costs; while driving factories to China and 3rd world countries where there are no pollution laws.
Talk to legislators or their staff to find those on your side of the issue; and ask how you can best assist their efforts. The sponsors of a bill and it's most vocal opponents will often know which members most need to hear from their constituents. Legislators may need people to testify in a committee hearing or people to give documentation or analyses of the facts. They may appreciate you writing letters to the editor which they can then distribute to their colleagues.
Find people who personally know legislators or their top staff, and ask them to discuss your issue with the legislator, or to arrange a meeting with you and the legislator/top staff. Such personal contact can make a great difference
BUILD ONLINE SUPPORT
The internet is the best and fastest way to inform millions or even just your neighbors about political issues. E-mail your friends and fellow conservatives or post messages promoting your issue suggesting that people take these same actions.
You can post messages to conservative forums such as Free Republic, start a web site or blog, visit other conservative or political websites/blogs and e-mail them to alert them to your issue, and post comments and news on popular blogs. Network using Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and other social networking sites. The internet has broken the liberal media's stranglehold on getting information rapidly to Americans--use it as often as you can to help win on issues. Use digg.com and similar "social bookmarking" sites to call attention to your blog or web page, or any blog or webpage supporting your issue. If you get on talk shows, always mention your website, blog or Twitter address.
Build up an email list of friends and other people who will take action when you send an email alert.
Write up a petition requesting your representatives take action on your issue. You can request petitions from groups such as Americans for Constitutional Liberty-- see our petitions against the North American Union, Illegal Immigration and Judicial Tyranny as examples. Sign your name and ask friends, relatives, and co-workers to sign too. To create the biggest impact, gather large numbers of signatures. We deliver petitions to Congress and the White House every year.
Circulate the petition on the web via email, blogs, and websites such as FreeRepublic.com and Tea Party forums.
Get signatures on petitions around your community too. Some very effective locations at which to collect signatures are outside the doors of shopping centers and grocery stores, or roaming around their parking lot (grocery stores and "big box" stores usually are more willing to let you collect signatures than malls), at subway & rail stations, bus stops, post offices, airports, downtown parks during lunch hour, long waiting lines such as at a stadium or outside a theater, and busy downtown street corners. Festivals, fairs, and other special events are good too, particularly if held on public property where they can't stop you from exercising your 1st Amendment rights.
Mail the petitions to your representatives--or to maximize impact, visit your representatives' local office, either giving them to the staff or arrange to meet the representative in person. Inform the media that you delivered the petitions either by writing a news release and emailing or faxing it to all media in your area or by calling news editors directly. Take some digital photos and video footage at the delivery to include with your news release and to post on your website.
Elected officials who are scared of the liberal media or even their own party leadership may particularly appreciate having many petitions to show that their constituents want them to vote in opposition to the liberal or party line.
WRITE LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
How to write a letter to the editor: Your letter to the editor of a newspaper can reach thousands or millions of readers to influence public opinion, expose or praise Congressional voting records, alert the public on key issues, correct media bias, and more. Most newspapers and news websites accept letters by E-mail and fax.
Length: When writing letters to the editor or calling talk shows, keep your message brief (letters should usually be 200 words or shorter), easily understandable to someone who is not familiar with the issue (avoid or explain any jargon and specialized terminology because most readers won't understand such terms), and stay focused on one subject.
Topics: Letters which respond to a story or commentary in that paper often have the best chance of publication; and if you email it the morning you see the story, the paper may print it the very next day. You can alert readers about important issues, correct liberal media distortions, and even praise or expose a Congressman's or Senator's vote on an issue in their home state paper!
Take Action: You should take the opportunity to ask readers to take action such as contacting their representatives.
Important note: newspapers, talk shows and other media only want "exclusives," so be sure to send your letter to only one newspaper or show. While it is easy to send with one click your proposed letter to 40 different papers; 'BCC' or multiple addresses on your email will ensure they won't consider your letter regardless of the importance of the message. Send just one email to just one newspaper. Wait a few days and send it to another. If one paper publishes your letter and you want to send it to another, then rewrite it so it is quite different. If you do send it to several and one wants to publish it, be sure to tell other papers it got published if they call, and offer to do a re-write for them that is unique--otherwise you may get "blacklisted" for not giving them exclusives.
Verification: Include your home address and daytime/cell phone number because if the paper is interested in printing your letter, they will need to call you to verify you are the writer; that you only sent it to them (remember they want an exclusive in exchange for giving you space on their page); and to discuss any possible edits they plan to make (usually just to shorten it, correct grammar, or make it more concise).
Newspaper Blogs: Many newspapers have blog-style reader forum sections on their websites, where you can instantly post a comment about a particular news article or commentary, usually located at the bottom of the page for each article. People read these--so use them! Visit such websites often and add the conservative viewpoint to each article, but stay focused on responding to the issue in the particular article to assure your response won't get deleted for being 'off-topic'.
Op-Eds: An "op-ed" piece is a longer commentary on an interesting or particularly timely, in-the-news subject, usually published on the opposite page from the editorials, hence the name. Check your paper for the average length and style of the op-eds they do publish, usually no more than 600 words. Papers prefer op-eds to address hot issues in the news, so write and submit it quickly before the issue becomes "old news." Email, fax, or hand-deliver it to the paper to save time. You can write an op-ed in advance on an issue which you know will be a front-page story in coming weeks (such as an expected Congressional vote) so you will have it ready to submit the day it breaks into the news. Your writing and research should be of high quality for an editor to want to give you this much space on their page. Being a representative of an organization or having a specialized knowledge of the issue can help win the publishing game. Include a brief bio with your op-ed. Getting a well known person to agree to submit it in their name can increase the chances of publishing as well.
Read the Rules: Check the paper's website, or call/email to get their rules regarding letters to the editor and op-eds, such as the maximum length, how often they will print a letter from the same person, and any editorial suggestions they may have.
Distribution: Once published, use it to further boost your lobbying efforts: send copies to elected officials, talk shows, and anyone else who may be of assistance on your issue. Post the text or the link to the newspaper's webpage with your letter on blogs and websites. Save a copy of the web version to your computer as the paper's web page may vanish later. A letter in print enhances your credibility.
CALL RADIO TALK SHOWS
Here's how to get on talk radio shows. Radio talk shows are an excellent way you can bypass liberal media bias to educate or rally to action thousands or even millions of people with one phone call.
Call the local talk shows in your area, the national shows such as those hosted by Rush Limbaugh and Mike Reagan, or set listeners straight on liberal shows! It may be a little easier to get on the air when a substitute host is running the show, and local shows are much easier to get on than the national shows. Sometimes they will invite more calls saying "we have a line open" or by repeating their call-in number. Keep the talk show call-in numbers near your radio, in your car, and programmed into your phone so you can instantly call when they discuss an issue to which you wish to add your comments.
Email your Comments: You can e-mail or fax questions, comments and articles to talk shows, and some hosts do read e-mailed and faxed questions and comments on the air--saving you the struggle of getting through on the phone. They are only likely to use your comments if they relate to the issue they are discussing, but you can alert the host about other issues and ask them to discuss the issue on a future date. Some talk shows have a separate telephone voice-mail line where you can leave a brief comment for possible broadcast to avoid waiting on hold to talk on the on-air line.
Important note: email your message only to that one show because if they see other shows on the email address lines or receive it as a 'BCC', they will just delete it without reading it--they want an "exclusive" comment or question.
Be Prepared: Work out what you want to say or what questions you want to ask. You'll have some time (or a long time!) on hold waiting to go on the air, so use that time well. You may find that writing down and/or rehearsing what you want to say will make it easier; or just write down a few talking points.
Stay Focused: Talk show hosts can sometimes be condescending (try getting on Rush Limbaugh's show and talking about abortion, the North American Union, or the loss of American jobs to China!); they may try to steer you into agreeing with their possibly different views; try to embarrass or belittle you; try to make you sound like an extremist (be prepared to be accused as a "conspiracy theorist" or "nativist"--the invented "insult" for anyone who believes in America and is proud to be an American); or try to get you off of your subject. So be determined not to get distracted or to agree with other views than your own--but do it politely to avoid being cut off. Praise of the host, or thanking the host for their show may help pave the way to get your opinion across without too much interference--Rush proudly states he wants calls that "make me look good". Humor works too.
Don't Get Ambushed: If they ask you a question that is not what you want to talk about, just say what you were planning to say regardless--that is, don't answer their (sometimes leading) question at all, and don't sound defensive.
Examples: Radio Host: "The next caller is against the amnesty bill. What do you have against immigrants? America was built by immigrants! Tell me-- what country did your ancestors came from?"
Statement 1: You: "Well, my family was originally from (country)..." (Click) Host hangs up on you, then takes the opportunity to ridicule you, falsely claiming you are against all immigration and thus a hypocrite. By answering his question instead of making the statement you planned, you fell right into his well-oiled trap.
Statement 2: You: "Amnesty for illegal immigrants will encourage millions more people to break our immigration laws. Don't you support following the law? My family were legal immigrants--and I bet yours were too!" (Click) Host hangs up on you, but he has a tougher time attacking your view. You made the point you planned in spite of baiting and taunting by the host, and the listeners got your message loud and clear.
Be Concise: Even friendly shows have a limited time per call (some shows are very fast paced), and you may have only a few seconds to make your point before they take another call, so be very concise and say your most important points immediately: "Thanks, Rush; did you know Congress is going to vote next week on HR 1234, the bill which would (describe bill)? "Every American must call their Congressman today in opposition to HR 1234." Don't bother with introducing yourself unless you are calling as a representative of an organization, as that takes away from your precious seconds to give your message. If you have more than one question or statement, say so at the start: "I've got two quick points," otherwise the host may hang up after you make your first point, assuming you were done.
The Call Screener: Virtually every talk show has a call screener, who will ask what you plan to talk about, and you should be prepared with a very brief but interesting sounding summary of what you want to discuss.
The screener (who is often the program's producer) will decide if you go on the air or not, so you have to sell the screener on the idea that your comment, statement or question will add to the discussion. The more calls they have waiting, the more tightly they may screen them (selecting only the best or most interesting questions/comments), and national talk shows will screen more tightly than local shows. Be sure to sound confident and prepared or you will lose the first test of a screener: "Uh, I'm calling to, uh, ask about, you know..." will guarantee a hang up. Depending on the host, you should plan and have a question to ask the host even if your major goal is to make a comment or to ask people to call their elected representatives. The question you will ask is what you want to tell the screener, don't feel obligated to mention any comment or call-to-action because some hosts do not like comments, they want questions which they can answer, but once on the air you can usually get away with a quick comment or call-to-action. You will get a good idea of whether the host is a "question-only" host (like Rush) or likes comments & statements (like George Noory) just by listening to the calls that do get past the screener.
Once your call has been screened, you will be put in a queue, which the host will usually take in sequence of calling or ranked by how interesting the calls are, though the show may well end before the host has talked with every waiting caller. If the screener is particularly impressed with you, he may signal the host who may take your call sooner than earlier callers: "Caller on line 4 sounds interesting;" or the host may be looking for a particular type of comment to compliment his discussion.
Sometimes the screener will check back with people waiting on hold to let you know how long it might be, to ask if you mind waiting until after the news break, or even to let you know the topic will change at the top of the hour and ask if you have a comment about the next issue.
Topics Matter. If you are calling to discuss a different issue than the host is discussing, the screener won't be interested in putting you on the air; and if you lie to the screener just to get on the air and then talk about something else, the host will likely hang up on you and may even ridicule you for lying--Rush is famous for doing this. So what CAN you do? Link issues: depending on the topics (your's and the host's), you might be able to show how one relates to the other. If you want to warn people about an amnesty bill but the host is discussing a state tax hike, you can effectively make the link that massive numbers of illegal immigrants are responsible for heavy burdens in the state budget for police, welfare, health care and other expensive services; and that they certainly don't pay their share of income taxes. You can also ask some interesting question about the host's current topic and then introduce your different topic: "Here's something else you may be interested in..." Be creative. Some shows, including Rush, offer an "open microphone" day or hour where they will take calls on any topic.
Timing Your Call. Some talk shows can be very difficult to reach, particularly the nationwide shows, as well as local shows when discussing a hot topic. Stations have a limited number of phone lines and hosts can only take a limited number of calls in a hour. Here are a few tips which might help you get through.
Use the "7-second delay" to your advantage: dial or re-dial the number several seconds before a call is over--listen for the clues from the caller and host--and you may connect just as the caller hangs up. The "7-second" delay is not a standard, many stations use up to a 30 second delay. Call during ads too. Some stations clear the phone lines when they change topics or hosts--they hang up on everyone who is on hold, assuming they are still waiting to discuss the old topic--giving you an opportunity to call near the end of the hour. You may also try calling before the show even starts; you won't know what topics the host wants to discuss yet, but if the screener is already answering the phone, go ahead and ask. Stations may put all lines on "busy" to prevent people from calling too early, so keep trying every few minutes. Remember each redial on your cell phone will use a full minute of your monthly minutes, but if it takes you 50 redials (and an hour on hold!) to reach Rush's 20 million listeners, you can look at it as a good investment to educate so many people about your issue.
Be a Guest. If you are particularly knowledgeable and articulate on your issue, you may want to ask talk shows if they will let you be a guest on their show. Whether for a few minutes or for an entire show, you will have an opportunity to educate a great many people about your issue in detail. Call the radio station's regular business line and make your pitch to the show's producer why you would be an interesting guest. They may want your biography, any published works (which may include letters to the editor, blogs, college papers, etc.), and any credentials as an expert on your topic; and do mention if you have on-air or public speaking experience of any kind. Broadcast experience might also be considered being a caller or guest on talk shows, or perhaps you were a radio, TV or sports announcer in school. Public speaking experience can include school debates or theater, complaining about taxes at city council meetings, and speaking to groups at business or civic meetings. Mentioning this can give them some confidence you'll be comfortable talking on air and won't have stage fright. Being a representative of an organization, a recognized expert, or published author helps, but there are many reasons a non-credentialed expert in a field may win the interest of a radio station. If interested, the host or producer might do a screening interview or mock broadcast discussion to see how you would sound on air. Many shows appreciate guests willing to field questions from the audience.
Record It: Save the podcast of your time on the air from the station's website if they offer such, or record it on your computer. Then post the MP3 on your blog or website, and you can email the link to other shows as proof of your on-air talents. Add some photos to make a slide show and you have a video you can put on the web. If you are a guest (not just a caller), the station might be willing to email you an MP3 or send you a CD after the show if they don't post podcasts, but be sure to ask in advance so they can set it up. Once you have one show under your belt, you'll find it easier to be a guest on other shows or to make a repeat appearance on the same station. Search the web or ask your local stations to find the producers and syndicators of the regional and nationwide shows; for example Premiere Radio syndicates Rush and George Noory; Radio America syndicates Liddy. Rarely would you need to go to the studio: most talk show guests go on-air via the telephone.
Guest Host: If you become well-known to a talk show as a guest or a frequent and articulate guest, you should suggest they consider you as a guest host--to be a substitute host when the main host is on vacation or ill. Previous broadcast experience is most valuable; but especially at small stations you might just get an opportunity if the host is impressed by you and they really need a guest host. That can start a radio career.
Internet Radio: The internet offers unlimited opportunities to do a 'radio' or TV show at little or no cost. It could be live or pre-recorded. You can host the show on your own server or with a large internet radio company or a Youtube type site. An internet radio show focusing on local politics may attract considerable numbers in your city. A laptop with a wireless connection and free software will let you host the show most anywhere.
ATTEND POLITICAL EVENTS
Town Hall Meetings, Candidate Forums and Debates, and News Conferences are great places for activism.
Here's How to Take Advantage of Town Meetings and other public appearances which are often arranged by your elected representatives or civic groups; and in election years by the various candidates and debates. You can learn about them on the representative's or candidate's websites/Facebook/Twitter/social media sites, mailings, in the media; or call their offices. Sign up at the websites of candidates and elected officials to receive emails or text messages and you will get advance notice of such meetings.
Put Them on the Spot: These meetings are an excellent opportunity to ask important questions in front of the media and other citizens. By publicly asking them about their stand on the issues, you can hold them accountable for their votes and put them on the spot if they do not want to take a stand or if they do not want their big-government votes known.
Know How They Vote: You can research their voting record in advance so you can ask why they voted liberal or to thank them for voting conservative. Thomas is a good starting place because it lists all recorded Congressional votes; though it doesn't analyze them for their effect so check with various conservative or even liberal groups who evaluate and rate Congressional votes.
Educate the Audience: You can hand out information about your issue to the people and media attending such meetings so more people will learn about it. Ask candidates or representatives to take a stand on the issues in our Federal and State candidate questionnaires. Ask if they will take a pledge to repeal ObamaCare, to block "cap and trade" energy taxes, to limit their terms, to never raise taxes, to stop illegal immigration/build the 2,000 mile fence, to stop the North American Union, or to stop funding abortions, as examples.
Make it Public: If they give you any answer, lock in their commitment or condemn their refusal by writing a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and calling local talk shows, and adding comments at newspaper sites/blogs/websites. "At a town hall meeting, Congressman Smith refused to support building a border fence to stop Mexican drug-gang violence." Email everyone you can as well. You may get a vague "we're studying it" answer or even have them try to ridicule you, but at least you've forced them to publicly avoid the question and you let them know people want an answer.
Record It! YouTube it! It's essential in today's world to take a video camera to all such events. You may get a valuable video to post on YouTube and to send to all local TV and radio stations (call or email them, tell them you've got a newsworthy video for them. Even a cell phone video can get the idea across if you can hear what the candidate or representative said. Sit close to the PA system speakers to pick up the sound better. In hotels the loudspeakers are often in the ceiling; scout them out before you sit down. Remember how videos from the 2009 & 2010 town hall meetings, as well as the ACORN Investigations, Joe the Plumber, and Obama bowing to foreign tyrants all made the news and got America talking? A video of the right moment is worth 1,000 pictures! Let's make 2011 and 2012 town halls make even more history.
Don't Let the Left Control the Meetings: As Congressmen have learned that real Americans come to these town hall meetings and protest their left-wing votes, they sometimes bus in leftists and government workers to create a facade of support. Don't give up, but match their numbers and make sure our side gets equal time at the microphone as do the planted supporters.
News Conferences: If you learn of a news conference by your elected official (or any government official--they all work for you), attend and ask the questions the liberal media won't dare ask. Some may restrict attendees to media with official credentials, but if you're a blogger, Facebook commentator or "youtuber," you ARE the real media today. News conferences rarely ask for ID, they usually just ask you to write your name and contact info on a sign-in sheet. Arrive in the rush just before starting if you want, and bring a video camera. With a laptop or smartphone, you can post the video right after the event.
"The people are the ultimate guardians of their own liberty" Thomas Jefferson
VISIT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
A visit to your Congressman, Senator or local/state representative is one of the more effective things you can do to affect how he will vote. You may visit either individually or, most effectively, as a group or representing an organization. Representatives will often meet citizens at their local state/district offices, so call and set up an appointment--you may be asked to put the request in writing and mail or fax it to them. A meeting allows you to have their full attention for your issue, unfiltered by their staff who may not share the same political views as the representative.
You can also visit their legislative staff--see Legislative Assistant (LA) above, particularly when visiting their Washington office. It can be much easier to visit or call directly city/county/town and state representatives.
Expect that a meeting with a Congressman, Senator, or staff member will be very brief, so make your most important points quickly and give him a packet of additional reading material along with your contact information; and ask him to contact you after he has reviewed the information to let you know how he will vote or take action. You may get a meeting with a staff member, and at the end, the Congressman might stop in just to say hello, giving you only moments to sum up your message to him; so be prepared with a 30 second summary (also known as an "elevator pitch" in other fields) for such opportunities.
In many cases, an elected official may not make up his mind how to vote on a bill until near the vote. Certainly top liberals and good conservatives will often know at the start how they will vote on clear-cut ideological issues, leaving a number of undecideds among the "moderates." Many bills are not so easily ideologically clear-cut, even if they offer "goodies" and pork to attract support from each side; and these bills may have greater numbers of undecideds. Thus your visit can get the representative thinking about the bill and your information might make the difference. The Patriot Act and the "stimulus" bills were extreme examples of how Congressmen often don't or can't read the bills before voting, and resulted in our freedom and economy being sold out. Their schedules are very busy and there are thousands of bills, so your visit may focus their attention on a bill or a part of a bill they were not aware of and never read. Always insist they read the entire bill, no matter how urgent is the perceived need, and no matter how many pages are in the bill.
You may chance to meet your elected representatives and their staff at town hall meetings, political fundraisers, meetings where they speak or get an award, local/state party meetings, parades and civic events; and you can take advantage of the opportunity to say a few words and give him your card or contact information. Don't expect to have more than a moment of his time as you shake his hand; but if your issue intrigues him, perhaps he will talk to you later or have his staff get in touch with you. Sign up at their websites for emails, as well as following their Facebook and Twitter feeds.
Left wing groups, student groups, unions, trade associations, and taxpayer-funded organizations are just some of the groups who regularly send large groups to each meet their representatives or staff; and when they hold annual or other meetings in Washington, they will devote part of a day for everyone to make visits to the Capitol, often carrying prepared briefing sheets, scripts, etc. Conservatives must match or exceed the numbers of liberal and special interest visitors to the Capitol. Such group visits are very organized but often effective; and you would be smart to emulate this successful action on your issue. Group visits make good media, so alert the press. Having everyone wear the same t-shirt, hat or button makes for great photos and video. The press may cover such group visits if you send out press releases and call/email reporters. You should also video your visits.
"It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds." Samuel Adams
CONTACT YOUR REPRESENTATIVES
Write a letter or fax, send e-mail or call your elected representatives to let them know how you want them to vote on your issue. Always ask for a reply.
Note, postal letters to Congress and the White House will be delayed by several weeks due to security screening. For fast communications; visit, fax, call or email.
The Honorable "Name Here"
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
E-mail Contact Form:
The White House
Vice President "Name Here"
First Lady "Name Here"
Dear Mr. President:
The Honorable (Full Name)
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr./Mrs. (Last Name):
The Honorable (Full Name)
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator (Last Name):
Send email and FAXes to your Representatives and Senators, using the "Find Your Representatives" Link -- (CLICK HERE).
To call your Senators or Congressman, call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121, and ask to be connected to their offices. You can call the White House at 202-456-1111. When you call, you can leave your opinion with the receptionist, who may relay it to the member; but much better yet, ask to speak to the Legislative Assistant (or "L.A." in Capitol slang) who deals with your issue. The LA is the person who studies particular issues and makes recommendations directly to the Congressman, therefore a brief conversation with the LA will be much more effective.
Do not only give a bill number (H.R. 1234), but also describe the bill you are calling about or give it's name--Congress considers thousands of bills every year and most bill numbers are not well known even to the staff. You can describe the bill by it's result or action: "S. 2611, the amnesty bill which allows 100 million immigrants over 20 years."
Before visiting or writing a letter/fax, you can call the office and find out if the member is for, against, or undecided on your issue, allowing you to tailor your request for action to the member's position. Particularly during big debates over important legislation, various citizens organizations or the media will list each member's positions on their websites. Talk shows may also name those members most needing calls and letters. Those members supporting or opposing a particular bill will often tell you the positions of other members. An internet search can help find those making statements in support or opposition to an issue.
Bill Status: When talking to Congressional staff or even encouraging your friends to call their representatives, it's best to know the status of a bill. If you call and merely say "please vote for HR 1234", this request may be meaningless as a bill must first be debated in a subcommittee, approved, sent to the full committee, debated and approved, and only then can it be sent to the floor for a vote. Most bills don't make it out of the subcommittee. Therefore if a bill is parked in a subcommittee and no debate has been scheduled by the chairman, your correct action would be to call the members of that subcommittee and ask that they schedule debate and vote for it in the subcommittee--or to prevent hearings and a vote if it is a liberal bill. You should also call your own representative (who may not be on that subcommittee) and ask him to co-sponsor the bill and urge his colleagues to co-sponsor it too. Co-sponsoring good bills helps build credibility and support for the bill. Go to http://thomas.loc.gov to find the status, including cosponsors, of any bill.
Search the web or contact your city/county/town governments for the addresses, phone numbers, and E-Mail addresses of your city/county/town representatives.
Vital Email Rules: Remember that Congress is swamped with email and that they will never read or respond to emails from out of their state/district. Offices ceased using real email addresses in favor of website contact forms to enforce the policy. Because each representative's votes affect the entire country, and committee members have incredible power, we agree that it is wrong for them to limit their email and letters in this way, but it is a fact of life, and therefore sending messages to others than your own will have no effect. Thus it's a better investment of your time to email just your own Congressman and Senators, then ask your friends and family in other states and districts to contact their representatives. If you are a representative of a group or company which has members or customers in another state/district, you can write a (postal or faxed) letter on that letterhead and it should get some attention.
Directories and Apps: Both the House and Senate have online directories of members, with links to their individual websites. The Senate list also has email links. Commercial companies also offer printed and electronic directories offering great detail on each off and staff.. There are various smartphone apps which make contacting members easy. "Congress 411" and Carmen Group's "Congress" app are very good free iPhone apps which list all members, there are others specializing in contacting and following Twitter feeds from your own members; and there are paid apps with more info.
Congress may sometimes seem reluctant to hear comments from their voters--this is partly a reaction to the great volume of comments they receive, but also a reflection that some do not want their voters to know how they really vote, nor do some want to encourage voters to take effective action to disturb 'business as usual.'
KNOW HOW CONGRESS WORKS
Learn the rules of the legislature so you can better understand--and thereby be better equipped to influence--the legislative process. Know what is happening, for example when a bill is referred to a committee or how the differences between a House and a Senate version of a bill are resolved.
Important Point: Find out the status of your bill, because bills get referred to a committee after being introduced, so asking your Congressman to simply "vote for/against a bill" is meaningless as no vote will occur until subcommittee and committee action has taken place. For a bill where no action has been scheduled and it's just sitting in a subcommittee, one important task is to ask other members to sign on as co-sponsors.
The rules the House and Senate follow have been written and mastered by big government liberals in both parties to defeat, bury, or alter conservative bills; and to sneak through without notice dangerous bills, treaties and even Congressional pay raises! By gaining some knowledge of the rules can you predict these traps and tricks, and improve your citizen lobbying skills.
Beware that the most dangerous bills will usually have a few token scraps of interest to conservatives within them to buy their votes. But a minor scrap does not make a thousand-page freedom-robbing bill any better, and that is a point you can make when discussing such issues with a Congressman. The "Patriot Act" is a tragic example of this strategy. Liberals will often appear to compromise and accept less than they want to gain passage, only to expand the program in future years to get 100% of their original bill--essentially Lenin's "two steps forward, one step back" strategy. Backers of amnesty, for example, would accept fewer visas, cumbersome return-home requirements, and higher "fines" knowing that they will push to eliminate the fines and return-home requirements and expand the visa numbers in future years. Don't fall into their trap!
Read two publications which explain the legislative process from the introduction of a bill to the President's signature:
How Our Laws Are Made is a publication of the House of Representatives and explains House rules.
Enactment Of A Law is published by the Senate and explains the Senate rules.
Other useful information:
Glossary of Congressional Terms and Slang - understand the lingo of Capitol Hill to understand how the system works.
The Key Staff Positions in a Congressman's Office Include:
Chief of Staff (CoS) or Administrative Assistant (AA): One of the few staff who report directly to the member, the CoS is often the senior political advisor to the Congressman, and may be the office manager as well (this may be the person to talk to if you are looking for a job in their office). Unless you are a campaign donor, friend, or otherwise well-connected (or a job seeker) you will not likely meet with the CoS on grassroots legislative matters.
Scheduler/Appointment Secretary/Personal Secretary: Handles all aspects of the member's schedule, who he will and won't see, constituent visits, speaking engagements, etc. If you are visiting Washington, talk to the scheduler to see if you can arrange a meeting with the Congressman.
Press Secretary: Handles all media activities, sets up news conferences, writes news releases, works to get the Congressman on TV and radio shows, cultivates a friendship with the media, answers media questions, preps the Congressman to give the right answers, etc.
Legislative Director (LD): The LD is the senior Legislative Assistant; and oversees the LAs and their assignments and takes a senior role in advising and writing legislation.
Legislative Assistant (LA): Each office has a few "LAs", each specializing in different issues. They write legislation--and work with the committees, the White House, Federal agencies, lobbyists and special interests (both good and bad) who have written legislation for them; advise their member or the LD on pending legislation, etc. They report to the LD above.
IMPORTANT: The "LA" who handles the issue you are concerned with is the person you should talk to, not the receptionist. Call the office and ask: "who is the LA. which handles [your issue]?", then talk to that person and request that they discuss the issue and your views with the Congressman. Have something of interest (facts, debate points, news, ideas) to tell the L.A. not just "tell the Congressman to vote no." Follow up with a brief letter or fax--ask for their email address. If possible, schedule a visit. The LA can also tell you if the member is planning to vote for or against a particular bill--or if he is undecided. Those who are undecided are those you want to give the most lobbying attention.
Committee and Subcommittee Staff: Each committee and subcommittee have their own legislative staff, and more than member's own staff, they are more involved in drafting legislation and holding hearings. They are valuable to talk with or meet to discuss legislation, but not for the purpose of asking a member to vote for/against a bill.
Receptionist: When you call and just ask that the Congressman support or oppose a bill, the receptionist will usually be the one who assists you. But the receptionist will just add your opinion to a list showing that X number of people called in favor and X against an issue. For greater influence, talk to the LA handling your issue as described above.
District Staff: Members have one or more offices in their district or state, staffed by a few people. These staff are often easy to arrange to meet with (and you won't have to travel far!), and be sure to ask them to have the member write you a reply as a confirmation that the staff reported the meeting to the member. District offices receive fewer phone calls so targeting such offices for calls will make a greater impression (positively or negatively) than calls to their U.S. Capitol office.
Caseworker: Works with constituents to solve problems with federal (not state/local) agencies, such as Social Security, Medicare, etc. The caseworker usually works at the Congressman's district office. Sometimes a call or letter from a Congressman's office can get action where your efforts have failed.
Legislative Correspondent (LC): Answers constituent letters, faxes & emails. The LC will usually prepare for the Congressman a periodic summary of how many letters, faxes and emails are for and against each issue. Most offices do not reply to out of state/district mail and email, unless you are writing as a representative of an organization or company or if you are a donor or other supporter. Always ask for a reply if you want one, and expect that most replies will be form letters.
"Personnel is policy" You may find that many staff have different political views than their Congressman or Senator, thus a good conservative representative can be somewhat neutralized in his effectiveness on our issues by staff not loyal to his philosophy. Congressional briefings for new members encourage members to accept 'diversity' by not selecting staff loyal to their philosophy. Lobbyists and advocates for big government also seek to befriend representatives and their top staff to convince them that "business-as-usual," more spending, taxes, pork projects, special laws and exemptions, and campaign donations are the way to go. That makes YOUR job as a citizen lobbyist all the more important to overcome these layers of protection and often false information.
Senate staff have similar titles and responsibilities, and benefit from a greater number of staff. Depending on the office, some staff may hold two or more posts or have different titles. During election campaigns, the member will usually be accompanied with campaign staff--not office staff--at political events and rallies, and they may be less likely to relay a legislative-related message should you talk to one of them.
Once in a rare while if you call before or after business hours, you may find a Congressman will answer the phone!
Whenever you visit Washington DC, stop by the offices of your Congressman and your Senators and ask to see their LA who handles your issue of concern. You will find that if they are in the office and have a moment, they may see you, but likely only for a couple minutes; so be very concise and if possible have some reading material and contact information to leave with them. Campaign donors, particularly large donors, will get much favored access.
Here's a very brief description of how a bill moves through Congress:
A "bill" is a proposed law, and a "resolution" is a non-binding proposed statement of the opinion of Congress. A law is in its simplicity anything you can be arrested for violating, to force you to do or not do something, to order or fund the government to do or not do something. Thousands are written and introduced every year, but few are good and most are dangerous in greater or lesser degree to our liberties; and several hundred are passed and become a law or an official statement. The path to passage is of course made much more difficult for bills mandating true constitutional government, cutting spending, ending abortion, stopping illegal immigration, etc.
The text of bills can be written by Congressmen, their staff, committee staff, lobbyists and special interests, the White House, and by even civic activists like yourself. It then is reviewed by lawyers and policy experts, and regardless of who wrote it, a Congressman or Senator will then submit it in his name as the sponsor. Often a bill is submitted with the names of additional supporters, known as 'cosponsors,' and the more cosponsors a bill has at the start or who sign on later, the more regard the bill is given--particularly if a majority have signed onto the bill. Once reviewed and ready for submission, a bill is simply put in "the hopper" (just a box) and then it is given a sequential number such as H.R. 1234.
After a bill has been introduced, it will be sent to a subcommittee which specializes in the subject of the bill. The most effective actions at that time are: gaining support in the subcommittee, to get the bill scheduled for a subcommittee vote, and to gather additional cosponsors. Or alerting Members that a bad bill should not receive hearings, gain cosponsors or be voted upon. Asking members not on the committee to simply vote for/against it is premature, as no vote will take place or even be scheduled until it has survived subcommittee and committee votes, so the better request would be to ask them to cosponsor the bill and get their colleagues to cosponsor it as well. Once the subcommittee has voted for it, it may advance to the committee. Then support must be built for a full committee vote. Only if it passes the committee vote can it then be scheduled for a vote by the entire House or Senate. Various rules and deals can result in little or no debate allowed on bills, and in the Senate, "filibusters" (unlimited debate, sometimes lasting 24 hours a day for many days) are sometimes used to delay or prevent bills from passing. In recent years, job-destroying treaties have often been submitted with "fast-track" deals denying members from improving or otherwise changing the language, always to the detriment of our nation.
The chairman of a subcommittee or committee has great power to push a bill he favors or to prevent a vote from ever taking place--you may hear a bill will "die in committee," meaning it has no support or that the chairman will never let it be put to a vote or even debate because he's afraid it might pass. Various tricks, deals and battles can occur to prevent a bill which has survived a committee vote from ever having a vote or to sneak through a dangerous or unpopular bill; for example you may have heard the term "reconciliation" in the ObamaCare battle, which is a trick to bypass the Senate rules on cutting off debate. The text of an unpopular or dangerous bill can often be added to a popular bill as an amendment to force opponents to vote for it. Bills may also have a page or two of dangerous legislation buried in a seemingly innocent bill--they hope nobody will notice.
Many in Congress and the media use groups like "children," "the elderly," "the needy," etc. to pass socialist legislation, accusing any legitimate opposition of being "against children". Here Senator Jay Rockefeller stooped low to defend the dangerous and expensive SCHIP bill, January 2009: “To me, it should be difficult enough to (even) think of voting against a bill on children."
Once passed by both houses, a "Conference Committee" of several Representatives and Senators will be selected to work out any differences between the Senate and House versions, and only after both houses have approved the same language will the final version be presented to the President for his signature or veto.
Congressional bills fall into several categories: A proposed law (anything you can be arrested for violating, or which directs any part of the government to spend your tax money or to do something) will be titled S. or H.R., meaning simply 'Senate' or 'House of Representatives.' An official statement of the House or Senate which does not have the force of law is called a Resolution, and is often referred to as H. Res. or S. Res. Resolutions have no legal force and are used to send a message that the Congress of the United States is concerned about an issue or applauds good works. Treaties, nominations, etc. will not have a numeric designation.
"Consensus is the absence of leadership" Margaret Thatcher