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Sowing the Seeds of Grassroots: Contacting Congress Presented by Sarah Holstine, Legislative Specialist 2011 NARFE Legislative Training Conference.

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Presentation on theme: "Sowing the Seeds of Grassroots: Contacting Congress Presented by Sarah Holstine, Legislative Specialist 2011 NARFE Legislative Training Conference."— Presentation transcript:

1 Sowing the Seeds of Grassroots: Contacting Congress Presented by Sarah Holstine, Legislative Specialist 2011 NARFE Legislative Training Conference

2 Why Contact Members of Congress? Credit: The smallest Senate page and the largest Capitol police officer, [Senate Historical Office]

3 Why Contact Members of Congress? Credit: The smallest Senate page and the largest Capitol police officer, [Senate Historical Office]

4 Why You Should Contact Congress All Politics Are LocalAll Politics Are Local Over-estimation of Lobbyists’ cloutOver-estimation of Lobbyists’ clout Under Appreciation of GrassrootsUnder Appreciation of Grassroots You Have the NumbersYou Have the Numbers You VoteYou Vote Credit: James Montgomery Flagg ( ) I Want You for the U.S. Army Lithograph, 1917 I Want You for the U.S. Army To Contact Congress!

5 Article One: Congress Can... Collect taxes Borrow money Regulate commerce with nations and among the states Establish a post office Declare war Raise and support an army Make “all laws which shall be necessary and proper” to execute these powers

6 Congress’ Structure: Where the Power Is Bi-Cameral Institution –House: 435 Voting Members (6 Non-voting) 112 th Congress: 241 Rep; 192 Dem; (2 Vacancies) –Senate: 100 Members 112 th Congress: 51 Dem; 2 Indep; 47 Rep Political Leadership

7 House Political Leadership Speaker of the House: John Boehner (OH-8) Majority Leader: Eric Cantor (VA-7) Majority Whip: Kevin McCarthy (CA-22) Republican Conference Chair: Jeb Hensarling (TX-5) Republican Conference Vice Chair: Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5) Republican Policy Committee Chair: Tom Price (GA-6) Republican Congressional Campaign Committee Chair: Pete Sessions (TX-32) Democratic Leader: Nancy Pelosi (CA-8) Democratic Whip: Steny Hoyer (MD-5) Assistant to the Democratic Leader: James Clyburn (SC-6) Democratic Caucus Chair: John Larson (CT-1) Democratic Caucus Vice-Chair: Xavier Becerra (CA-31) Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: Steve Israel (NY-2)

8 Senate Political Leadership Majority Leader and Democratic Conference Chair: Harry Reid (NV) Majority Whip: Dick Durbin (IL) Democratic Policy Committee Chair: Charles Schumer (NY) Democratic Policy Committee Vice Chair: Debbie Stabenow (MI) Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee Chair: Mark Begich (AK) Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair: Patty Murray (WA) Minority Leader: Mitch McConnell (KY) Minority Whip: Jon Kyl (AZ) Republican Conference Chair: Lamar Alexander (TN) Republican Policy Committee Chair: John Thune (SD) Republican Conference Vice Chair: John Barrasso (WY) Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee Chair: John Cornyn (TX)

9 Congress’ Structure Bi-Cameral Institution –House: 435 Voting Members (6 Non-voting) 112 th Congress: 241 Rep; 192 Dem; (2 Vacancies) –Senate: 100 Members 112 th Congress: 51 Dem; 2 Indep; 47 Rep Leadership Committees –Jurisdiction –Chairs and Ranking Members

10 Committees: Jurisdiction The House Budget Committee and the Senate Budget Committee are responsible for drafting Congress’ annual budget plan, monitoring action on the budget for the Federal Government, and has jurisdiction over the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee have jurisdiction over all tax matters, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and some other entitlements. Premium Conversion and GPO/WEP legislation is heard in these committees. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee have jurisdiction over civil service issues, including federal employee and annuitant retirement and health benefits

11 Committees: Chairs & Ranking Members House Budget Committee –Chair: Paul D. Ryan (R-WI-1) Ranking: Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-8) Senate Budget Committee –Chair: Kent Conrad (D-ND)Ranking: Jeff Sessions (R-AL) House Ways and Means Committee –Chair: Dave Camp (R-MI-4)Ranking: Sander Levin (D-MI-12) Senate Finance Committee –Chair: Max Baucus (D-MT)Ranking: Orrin Hatch (R-UT) House Oversight and Government Reform –Chair: Darrell Issa (R-CA-49)Ranking: Elijah Cummings (D-MD-7) Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs –Chair: Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT)Ranking: Susan Collins (R-ME)

12 How a Bill Becomes a Law Legislation Can Start in Either House –Except for Taxes (and Appropriations)

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14 How a Bill Becomes a Law Legislation Can Start in Either House –Except for Taxation (and Appropriations) House of Representatives is Body of Majority Senate is Body of Minority

15 Role of Offices and Staff Hill vs. District vs. Campaign Key Staff Capitol HillDistrict/State Offices -- Chief of Staff-- District/State Director -- Scheduler-- Caseworker -- Press Secretary-- Outreach -- Legislative Director-- Staff Assistant -- Legislative Assistant-- Intern -- Legislative Correspondent -- Staff Assistant -- Intern

16 Communicating with Congress Main ways to communicate –In Person –Phone –Letters – Changing Nature of Technology and Security Contact YOUR Member of Congress

17 Congressional Office Record Keeping When you make a contact, it is Recorded Your Contacts Matter –Are Read, Counted, Etc. Prioritize Your Issues Don’t Over “Contact”

18 General Things to Know The Legislation –Bill Numbers –Co-Sponsors

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20 The Legislative Action Center

21 General Things to Know The Legislation –Bill Numbers –Co-Sponsors Census statistics

22 Census Data

23 General Things to Know The Legislation –Bill Numbers –Co-Sponsors Census statistics General Rules –Be Yourself –Be Polite –Become a Resource –Work with Staff

24 Scheduling a Meeting How (Contact Scheduler) Who (will be at meeting) What (is the meeting about) Where (do you want to meet) When (do you want to meet) Take Advantage of Recesses Why (do you want to meet) Be Flexible Using a 3 rd Party Source: Senate Sergeant at Arms Charles Higgins turns forward the Ohio Clock for the first Daylight Saving Time, while Senators William Calder (NY), William Saulsbury, Jr. (DE), and Joseph T. Robinson (AR) look on, [Senate Historical Office]

25 Before Your Meeting Do Your Research –Review and Organize Arguments for and against our legislation –Previous Experiences with Legislator Have they co-sponsored our Bills? What committees is (s)he on? The Pre-Meeting Meeting –Who is going and Who is Speaking on What Issues –What is the purpose of the meeting? What are your goals? –What Issues/Legislation will be Discussed (No more than 3) Prepare Materials for Legislator (Have your own copy) –NARFE’s Legislative Program –Talking Points & Issue Papers from NARFE website

26 The Meeting Be on Time –Confirm Appointment Beforehand Be Positive and Honest Introductions Educate Members and Staff with Basic Facts –Avoid abbreviations and/or jargon –Discuss the fundamentals of our legislation –Relate personal stories

27 The Meeting (Cont.) Have a Goal and Get a Commitment –Co-Sponsor Legislation or Not Support Proposal –Talk to Their Colleagues –Urge Chairmen to set a hearing Stay on Topic It is okay to say “I Don’t Know” Leave Fact Sheets

28 Meeting Follow-Up Send a Thank-You Send Promised Information Follow-up (politely) on Their Commitment Offer Additional Information/Resources

29 Where Else to Meet Your Member Town Hall Meetings Community Events Fundraisers Chance Occurrences

30 Meeting with Staff Always Take the Opportunity Often Know More Then Members Provides Immediate “IN” in the Office Often Go On to Bigger and Better Things (Like Working for NARFE) Know Which Staffers Work on Our Issues

31 Phone Calls Capitol Switchboard: Be Polite Individual Office Numbers: –Members’ websites –NARFE Legislative Action Center –NARFE Congressional Directory –Phone Book

32 Action Calls Keep message simple, clear and concise “I am a resident and voter of Centerville, Ohio and am calling to urge Congressman Turner to oppose any proposals to make additional cuts to the earned federal civilian retirement and health benefits of federal workers and retirees, to freeze federal pay or to reduce the federal work force. Federal workers, including those at Wright-Patt Air Force Base, protect America’s heartbeat and keep our nation strong.” Where Sheer Numbers Matter

33 Question Calls Ask to Speak with Appropriate Staff Member Engage in Polite Conversation Ask Questions –Why isn’t Member Co-Sponsoring –How is the Member Voting and Why

34 Letters If you take the time to WRITE; You will take the time to VOTE

35 Letters: Content Try to Cover One Issue; Two at the Most State Purpose and Goal in First Paragraph Use Bill Numbers and Proper Name Be Polite –If you can’t sign your name to it, don’t write it Remember the Line Between Congressional Work and Campaign Work Personalize and Hand-Write (if possible) –Send Form Letter, Expect Form Letter Include Your Contact Information on Letter

36 Letters: Format The Honorable Frank Wolf 241 Cannon House Office Building United States House of Representatives Washington, DC The Honorable Frank Wolf Park Center Road Suite 130 Herndon, VA Dear Representative Wolf: The Honorable Mark Warner B40C Dirksen Senate Office Building United States Senate Washington, DC The Honorable Mark Warner 101 W. Main Street Suite 4900 Norfolk, VA Dear Senator Warner:

37 Mailing Instructions Mail to District Office –Address available on: Members’ website NARFE’s Legislative Action Center NARFE’s Congressional Directory Mail to Your Own Lawmakers –Every Lawmaker Matters

38 Write as You Would a Letter –Cover One Issue –State Purpose in First Paragraph –Use Bill Numbers & Proper Name –Be Polite –Remember No Campaign Language –Personalize –Include Contact Information Webforms

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41 Social Networking Facebook Twitter Blogs

42 Communication Follow-Up Become a Resource Sign-up for Members’ Lists

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44 Communication Follow-Up Become a Resource Sign-up for Members’ Lists Never Miss an Opportunity to Say Thank You Be Polite

45 NARFE must be political. We must not be partisan. We must recognize the power: –The majority party –The party leadership –Committee/subcommittee chairs We must remember: –There is never a final vote. –There is always a next election. –To keep up our efforts Do not admit defeat or reflect contentment by being silent

46 Resources NARFE Congressional Directory NARFE Website: NARFE Legislative Action Center: House of Representatives: Senate: White House: Thomas: U.S. Census Bureau:

47 Questions?


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