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Grassroots Lobbying 101: Contacting Congress

When you call your Representative or Senators in support or opposition to a bill, there’s a few key points to keep in mind that will make your call most effective: 1. Know the status of the bill. 2. Talk to/leave a message/email the right person. 3. Ask for something they can do. 4. Be concise.

  1. Learn the status of the bill before you call. Is it being advanced to committee hearings or has it sat with no action for months? Does it have many cosponsors? Look it up at; where you’ll see when it was introduced, how many cosponsors, and any subcommittee or committee action. A bill that has sat for months might be important, but without a great grassroots push or interest from the House leadership, it won’t get anywhere.

2.  Communicate to the right person. If you just leave a message with the receptionist or voicemail, stating “please ask the representative to vote for/against H.R. 1234,” be aware that the message is almost useless. They might tick a note that XX people called in favor or against the bill. That’s all. Instead, ask to speak to the Legislative Assistant who handles (your issue) You can say it the way Hill folks talk, as “L.A.,” (pronounced how we refer to Los Angeles). Most likely, the receptionist will give you the person’s voicemail and email. Then leave a message and send an email. The L.A. is the staff member who reports to the member about your issue.

3. Ask for something they can do. Most bills are not ready for a vote, and most bills ‘die in committee’ without ever getting to a vote. So “vote for/against H.R. 1234” isn’t something they can do yet unless the bill is in fact heading towards a vote. Before a floor vote happens, a bill must first be debated in a subcommittee and approved, sent to the full committee, debated and approved, and only then can it be sent to the floor for a possible vote. But note that many bills sent to the floor never get a vote. Therefore, the most useful actions would be to ask them to cosponsor the bill and to ask that they request the subcommittee chairman to schedule a hearing.

4. Be concise. Don’t go into long detail or talk about multiple issues. And don’t email long explanations or papers—staff don’t have time to read them. Sending attachments might get your email blocked by security. A short voicemail and a short email will be appreciated.

Following these simple points will make your lobbying calls more effective. And these principles apply to contacting your state and local officials.

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