Ronald Reagan was fond of quoting Senator Everett Dirkson, who often said, “You have to hold politician’s feet to the fire because that is the only way they feel the heat and see the light.”
Lobbying is not just a way of changing your public official’s mind; lobbying is a way to remind them that this is your democracy and you are watching.
Like any great disinfectant, when elected officials operate transparently and on-the-record, it keeps politics clean.
Here are some basic tips for you to remember:
1. Lobbying on its most basic level consists of a simple meeting with a legislator or other official. This should be approached like any other meeting with a busy professional. Set the appointment ahead of time and be prepared to deal with inflexibility. If possible, consider meeting in the legislator’s home district.
2. If appropriate, record any meetings that you have with your official. When you request a commitment from your public official during your meeting, you want to have a record of their response. This way, you have what you need if the official strays away from the truth and you can repeat your request if it is not addressed while holding them accountable.
3. Watch your representatives closely and ensure they are held accountable. Gather information and constant feedback as it becomes available, and make sure that they are aware of the fact that you want to be kept in the loop of new developments.
Remember that lobbying is a year-long gig and staying active in the process all 12 months yields the best results. Check with your activists; make sure they are communicating with their neighbors and their public officials and that the right messages are flowing in the proper directions.