Sunday, November 08, 2009

Make Yourself Heard in Washington

by Tom King, (c) 2009

If you want to voice your opinion about a political issue, it helps to know where to contact the big four - your congressman (or woman), your two senators and the president.  In this post 911 world, mail takes a while to arrive, although it can make quite an impression when it does. For most issues, you don’t have a lot of time from when word leaks out that something nasty is fixing to hit the floor for a vote.  It pays to have the links to the big three on a quick link.

Copying a chain letter or sample e-mail reduces your effectiveness by at least 50%.   A congressman told me once that he had changed voting decisions based on 12 disconnected, but articulate letters or e-mails.  I once coordinated a campaign to pester a key Texas House member to release a bill for a vote. When I talked to him about the vote, he commented, “I’m getting a lot of letters and e-mails about that bill. Are you guys conducting a campaign?”  I admitted we had been helping stakeholders follow the process.  He was very impressed that letters were individualized and not cut and paste copies.  So, I suggest that if you really care about the issue, take time to write your own material.

You only have to do it once.   Pull up your word processor and compose your opinion about the issue, suggest how the legislator should vote and thank him or her for his attention.

Next develop a bookmark link list on your Internet browser.  You’ll need the three address for your representative, senator and the president.

You can find your congressman at this website address:

You can find your senators at this website address:

Find their contact pages and bookmark them so you can get to them quickly.  The president’s contact page is at this link:

You’ll have to fill in your name and contact information, but when you get to the message, it will be a simple matter of cutting and pasting your personal message in the message box.  It’ll save you a bunch of time doing it that way.  You will need to add a customized paragraph where appropriate. Usually legislation is going through either the house or the senate or is headed for the president’s desk when you write. If, for instance, the bill is in the House, tell the senator or president you are concerned about this legislation and ask them to vote for or against, sign or not sign whatever legislation it is when it comes to the senate or to the president for signing.  If it’s headed for the president already, you may want to tell the other guys whether you approve or disapprove of what they did.

Once you’ve done the process once, then you’ll be able to follow a quick and easy step by step process and cover your federal representatives regarding your concerns.  Here’s the drill:

1.    Write the message.  Be clear and succinct. Long windy diatribes won’t be read. Often an aid is the first one to look at what you write.  Your opinion gets registered, so state it clearly in the first paragraph. If your letter is particularly well written, it might get printed and put on the boss’s desk.
2.    Go through the bookmarks and contact all 4 contacts.
3.    Be sure and add the custom sentences.
4.    Wait and follow up later if something happens.  It doesn’t hurt to remind them you are still watching them.

You may not think it’s important, but it is. Contacting those who represent us is the only way we have to vote between elections, other than showing up at their offices at capital and letting them hear it face to face.

Of course, that’s a lot of fun too and I highly recommend it. Several hundred people who do that will scare the bejeebers out of the nattily dressed children who make up the bulk of a legislator’s staff.

Have fun and give 'em hell!

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