“If I were to remain silent, I'd be guilty of complicity.” ― Albert Einstein
Telephoning a legislator is a legitimate and common form of lobbying, especially when the session is active and the legislation you support or oppose is pending. At these times the legislator can be called directly at his/her capitol or district office.
Personally meet with a legislator to communicate your position. Most legislators have office hours in their home districts. Do not be overly concerned if you end up meeting or speaking with staff rather than the legislator. In many cases, this is equally or even more effective. Be sure to treat staff with the same degree of respect you would afford the legislator.
Volunteer lobbyists should remember that the legislator may neither have read the bill nor have an understanding of it. So your main job is to educate him/her about its impact.
It is best to visit with legislators in a small group, three constituents is optimum (at most), and to keep the visit as brief as possible. One person should lead off as the prearranged spokesperson. Going alone is often unsatisfactory because is it easier for a legislator to out-talk the constituent or for the two to reach and impasse. The small group should create the impression that it is representing many more people.
On a call or in a visit:
Attempt to relate to the legislator in a personal way so that the legislator will have a frame of reference when the bill is called for a vote. For example, if there is a social, political or business ties, or a shared community activity in the home district, it may serve as identification when your point of view is considered.
Let the legislator know if you are working with others on this issue, if you are active in the community or if you are representing members of your organization (BikePAC, ABATE, AMA, Hog, etc). Mention any other group or individual from the district who supports your stand on the issue.
Briefly state your position on the bill and a succinct rationale. Ask for your legislator’s position on the bill.
A concise, one-page fact sheet is a MUST. Leave it with the legislator as a reminder of the issues and also of the visit . . . it should include your name, phone and address for follow-up correspondence.
After the visit, send a gracious Thank You note. By now you are closer to your legislator than 99% of his/her constituents . . . and your thank you WILL be remembered.
THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF LOBBYING
NEVER lie to or mislead a legislator about the relative importance of an issue or the opposition’s position or strength. Your credibility rests on your honesty.
Look for friends in unusual places. In politics, a friend is a politician who helps you when you need help, (whether a Democrat, Republican, Liberal or Conservative or Independent) even if that politician is hostile to you 95% of the time.
Never cut off anyone from contact. Do not let legislators consider you a bitter enemy because you disagree. Today’s opponent may be tomorrow’s ally.
Do Not grab the credit. “Nothing is impossible if it does not matter who gets the credit.”
Your word is your bond. Never promise anything that you can’t deliver. Whether it be information or anything else.
Do Not waste time on opponents who are publicly committed to their position. It is more productive to lobby legislators who are least committed or who claim to be neutral or keeping an open mind.
Never fail to notice and thank anyone who has helped you. The “good ol’ boy” system is alive and well in Salem, Portland or wherever politics are played.
Do Not gossip! Knowing legislators’ peculiarities and peccadilloes is one thing. Talking about them is another. Remember that discretion is the better part of valor.
When you are crossed politically, don’t get mad – get even.” (Robert F. Kennedy) The power of the ballot box is yours to use as you see fit, but do not threaten their current position/status.
Carry a rabbit’s foot or other lucky charm. In lobbying you can know your opponent, you can develop imaginative and reasonable compromises, you can burn the midnight oil to digest all the arguments, but it can all go right down the drain if you don’t have a little bit of luck.