Communicating with Congress.
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  1. #1

    Communicating with Congress.

    This is taken from the govtrack.us website and I thought some on here would find it interesting and informative.
    Specific remarks I thought were applicable to the topic discussions seen on this forum have been highlighted.

    Tips for Communicating with Congress
    When the Congress was created, communication was not as easy as it is today. Technology has been a major force behind increasing citizen engagement with civics. Over the last decade or so, the number of letters to Congress has nearly quadrupled, with more than 200 million emails now received by Congress each year (that's around one email per adult!). Unfortunately, Congress has kept staff sizes largely unchanged since the 1980s (on average a staff of 15 per representative and 34 per senator), and as a result letters very rarely receive any significant attention, and as the number of letters goes up, the impact of any one letter necessarily goes down. So should you write or phone your rep.?

    First take a moment to consider the onslaught of communication Members of Congress are receiving. You should respect your Member's limited staff time, and for that matter your fellow constituents' right to have your Member's staff concentrate on legislating, rather than tirelessly reading letters, by communicating only well-thought-out messages. Certainly don't communicate with the intent to overload your Member's staff. That isn't fair to anyone.

    But is your message going to have any effect? Writing in a form letter provided to you by an advocacy group will probably have very little effect. Especially if it is a fax. Faxes are quickly discarded. Members' staffs notice when they receive hundreds of the same letter, and they don't count these letters as important as personalized messages. On the other hand, while the majority of Congressional staff say they believe, according to a CMF survey, that personalized letters can impact their boss's decision making, it is impossible to know if there is any truth to this.

    In the personal experience of GovTrack's creator, what Congressional staff say is that two things happen with letters and other communications. First, Representatives and Senators use the information essentially like a poll: They tally up responses and use the totals to guide their decision making. Second, on rare occasions they use some letters as case studies in speeches on the floor, to support their point with a little personal touch. A letter turning into a case study is especially rare, especially in terms of the volume of communications received, which means by and large the actual personal content of messages (beyond what can be tallied) is pretty much unread. Moreover, your personal communication is worthless in isolation. As part of a movement, when the tally will add up to something, it might have an impact. I'm sure there are some representatives that take tallies seriously, but I don't know how many. No House staffer says they actually read the letters carefully: They are frank that they don't have the resources to do it. (Of course, they can vote on their own resource levels, so there is some mystery there.)

    But if you are going to write, how do you do it? Visit your representative's website and look for a "Contact" page. You'll always find either an email address or, more commonly, a form to fill out. Congressional staffers say the following things are important to making your message influential: including your name, address, and ZIP code so the staff can verify you are a constituent of the Member of Congress, referencing specific legislation rather than a general issue by bill number and title, talking about the impact of the bill on the district or state, and your own reason for supporting or opposing the bill. While 90 percent of Congressional staff thought these items were helpful, less than 68 percent of staff thought personal stories were helpful. One well-respected organization recommends being: personalized, short, targeted, and informative.
    If you intend to write a letter, we wish you good luck! But, you might consider what forms of communication might better serve the needs of your fellow constituents. That is, if letter writing doesn't really work all that well, what else might? Does your representative come to your district for town hall meetings? Does he do online chats? Is his local office responsive to communication? Check out these alternatives and get others on board with broadening the landscape of constituent communication.
    Maybe this has been posted before but I hope it is helpful to someone.

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  3. #2
    The best impression made on our representatives is to receive a TON of correspondence, whether it be faxes, e-mails, letters or actual phone calls. First off, if you think your Congressman/Senator is going to read your letter, you're mistaken. The best way to get their attention is to flood their offices with everything you can send, as long as the issue is made known up front. Because the only thing they respond to is massive response.

    When the White House switchboard is over-run, when the White House e-mail account is jammed, when every Congressman/Senator's office is deluged with calls, letters and faxes - then you make a statement that cannot be ignored.

    Why do you think Reid slacked off on the gun issues? Since Obama was declared the winner, guns have been the front issue to the people. Guns are flying off the shelves, ammo is scarce, permit applications are overloading the state governments. And the 2nd Amendment is front and foremost. We're making a LOT of noise, and it's starting to register with the Dems that we're not going down without a fight. The last thing Obama needs is a revolution against his presidency. And he can see that as a unique possibility.

    Keep making noise! Clog those switchboards! Overload the fax machines! Crash the mail servers! And don't be misled that sending a form letter from an advocacy group is a waste of time. As long as every letter has a unique e-mail address, it will count toward the total. Use every avenue available to you. And don't stop!
    -= Piece Corps =-

  4. Thumbs up

    PC is right I am in education and 5 years ago are line idem was cut from the budget. After we were told of this we flooded the office of every one with fax emails and phone calls. IT SHUT THEM DOWN. We were put back into the budget. The squeaky wheel gets the oil. DONíT SLACK NOW.
    Calling an illegal alien an 'undocumented immigrant'
    is like calling a drug dealer an 'unlicensed pharmacist '.

  5. #4
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Arizona / Alaska
    Posts
    14
    Thanks Dhaught! Good stuff.

    I've got one that I've been meaning to follow up on regarding military combat training.
    Currently there are units firing a 151rd training course, than are being put into combat.


    I wrote a letter around Christmas, and still have heard no response.

    We all know it requires more than 150 rounds to become a proficient shooter.

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