Effectively Engaging Your Member of Congress
Why You Should Get Involved
The Alliance encourages its member-employers to get involved and share their perspectives with their elected representatives, particularly members of Congress given that so many policy issues are handled by the U.S. Congress and federal agencies.
Beth Cubriel with Michael Best Strategies shares her perspectives on how best to build relationships and share information with members of Congress. Beth worked for many years for United States Senator John Cornyn.
Time to Meet Your Member of Congress!
Here are some tips on how you can build a trusted relationship with your member of Congress and in so doing make sure that The Alliance’s health policy priorities are well understood by those members.
- Know Who Represents You. The first step in establishing a relationship with your elected representatives is to know who they are and how to reach them. You can look up your House member and senators and find their offices’ contact information here: https://whoismyrepresentative.com/
- Call the office. Generally speaking, this is an easy but relatively ineffective method of communication. Calls into members’ offices get logged as a position for or against a particular issue. There are no supporting arguments or rationale relayed with your position and you will not get a response from the member. The only time that calls into offices work is if they are done en masse, potentially encouraging a member who is on the fence.
- Write letters/emails. For the activist with limited time, a letter or email can be very effective, especially if you have a unique story to tell. When writing your letter, be sure to let your representative know you are an employer in his or her district and that a vote they are about to take not only affects your ability to run a successful business, but also affects your employees. If appropriate, ask your employees to send letters of their own. Some Congressional offices have a policy to respond to all received correspondence. The response is almost always drafted by a staff member but includes language that is approved by the member.
- Meet with staff in the district. When I worked in the state offices for Sen. Cornyn, we met with constituents all the time. They came to our office; we attended their events; we got to know them. These are the people we would often proactively call for their opinion on a topic. They became opinion leaders for us in their particular field. We would report back to the senator so that he could better understand the perspectives of the business owners, law enforcement, teachers, etc. in the state.
- Attend events. When you know that a Congressional recess is approaching, call the member’s office and ask if they have any public events you can attend. Unfortunately, because the political climate has gotten so hostile, the public town hall meeting has become a thing of the past. But if you get to know the staff, they will likely be more forthcoming with you about opportunities to connect with the member. Conversely, if you’re a member of an association or chamber of commerce, ask them to invite your member to speak to your group. Or, invite the member to visit your business and meet your employees.
- Engage on social media. Want your member to Fight the 40, also known as the Cadillac Tax? Tag them when you re-tweet Fight the 40s twitter feed, letting them know you are a constituent and employer in their district. Say something like “This constituent wants to know if @JohnSmith will support workers in the district by fighting the 40.” Or, if your member has already voted to repeal the Cadillac Tax, a quick tweet to say thanks is always helpful. Just stay within the character limits and avoid being combative!
- Travel to Washington, D.C. If you happen to be taking the family to D.C., be sure to check in with your member before you go. They can be helpful in scheduling tours and most members will have a weekly meet and greet, a time when visiting constituents can snap a photo with the member.
- Help the campaign. If you are inclined, attend a fundraiser or volunteer for your member’s campaign. You’ll have to go to the member’s campaign website to get involved politically. That information can usually be found by Googling “John Smith for Congress” or “Jane Doe for Senate.”
I Can Help!
Please let me know if you have any questions about these suggestions. I’ve worked on both sides of constituent-member relationship, both as a Senate employee and as an issue advocate. I’m happy to review correspondence, track down the most relevant contact information, or answer any questions you might have about forging a trusted relationship with your elected official. You can contact me at email@example.com.