Steps To Influence Your Legislator

Posted on 03/22/2009

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Elected officials are, first and foremost, politicians. When lawmakers are up for re-election, they are often more willing to listen to interests outside their normal concerns. The issues of special interest groups are important to them because they may need that support to win re-election.One of the easiest and most direct ways to get to know and influence legislators is to help them. You can do so by volunteering to work on a campaign. Although assisting politicians does not ensure that they will always vote your way, it does allow you to spend time with them and their staff. Building and maintaining working relationships is always important.

The following are important questions to keep in mind when lobbying elected officials. The answers to these will influence how a legislator responds to the issue.

The Issue:

 

  • What are the merits of the issue?
  • What impact does it have on his/her district?
  • Does it involve possible job losses?
  • What is the cost?
  • What is the issue’s impact on the economy or business?
  • Would the issue create too much government interference?
  • Do issue opponents have more clout than proponents?
  • Is there a general lack of knowledge about the issue?
  • What is the executive branch position?

Political Considerations:

 

  • Is there an upcoming election in which the legislator faces tough competition?
  • Is the legislator a lame duck?
  • Have issue proponents or opponents made campaign contributions?
  • Does the issue have the commitment of an interest group? In other words, are there many voters tied to this single issue?
  • Does the issue have support from the president, governor or mayor?
  • Does the legislator know that Scorecards are closely monitored on this issue?

Media:

 

  • Have there been many news articles written on the issue?
  • Have there been many editorials written on the issue?
  • Have readers submitted letters to the editor on the issue?
  • Are there more opportunities to gain press attention?

Legislative Considerations:

 

  • Is the legislator the chairman of the committee that would handle the issue?
  • What are the legislator’s committee assignments?
  • What trade offs has the politician made with fellow legislators?
  • What are the positions of others in state or district delegation?
  • Are other legislators lobbying for or against the issue?
  • What is the staff advice on the issue?
  • What is the position of the legislator’s political party?

Personal:

  • Does the legislator have personal experiences and feelings on the issue?
  • What are the positions of the legislator’s family members, friends, and (especially) children?
  • Does the issue impact the legislator personally or others important to the legislator?
  • Does the issue have any connection to the politician’s alma mater?

Outside Influences:

 

  • Does the legislator have frequent grassroots contact with constituents who could influence him?
  • What’s the general public sentiment about the issue?
  • Do celebrities or sports figures endorse the issue?
  • How often does the legislator have chance encounters with the public?