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Lobby Your Legislator

Lobbying to convince any individual of the merits of your position requires an understanding of the rationale that supports that belief.  Your goal is not to threaten or antagonize, but to influence on the basis of your knowledge and understanding of the issues.
Be Prepared —Before You Lobby, Do Your Homework

Know Yourself

Be aware of your own personal prejudices or biases.  Such knowledge will enable you to maintain objectivity by anticipating your own response in a given situation.

Know Your Organization

If  you are speaking on its behalf,  you will want to  be  a credible representative.  Be fully  aware of  your organization’s positions  and their  development as  well as the relationship it maintains with other organizations and with the legislature.

Know Your Legislator

Make an attempt to understand the basis for your legislator’s positions which may include his or her:

Know Your Issue

Phrase the argument in your own words.Don’t be surprised if it appears you are more knowledgeable than the individual you are lobbying. No one can be expected to address every question or matter of concern regarding an issue, however so don’t hesitate to admit your lack of knowledge on a particular point. Be willing to pursue the answer and report back.

Know Your Opposition

It is preferable to anticipate the opposition and answer their arguments positively before those arguments surface publicly.

Effective Individual Communication

Your maximum influence comes in addressing your comments directly to your own legislator.

The Personal Visit

Perhaps the most effective method of transmitting your message, a personal visit allows both of you to connect names with faces. In communication afterward, you will have established yourself as a known concerned constituent. If your legislator is holding a hearing or workshop, try to attend. It is a good time to meet your legislator informally.
If your representative is not available, ask to meet the legislative assistant. S/he can generally be expected to be at least as well informed as your representative, and may have more influence than you suspect.

The Telephone

The telephone can be an effective tool. Remind the legislator of any previous contact. If the member is not available, speak with the legislative assistant.
During the legislative session, a toll free “hotline” is available (1-800-562-6000) through which information on the status of bills can be obtained. Messages can be left for your legislator. They should be brief and specific. Leave your name, address and phone number.

The Letter

Letters are important for the legislator and/or staff. The amount of mail on a particular piece of legislation frequently helps determine the legislators’ approach to an issue. One well written letter will often prove more weighty than a formal petition with many signatures. For this reason, it is generally considered better to express your opinion as an individual rather than as a member of an organization whose positions may already be well known to legislators.

Mailgrams are a quick, dramatic alternative to the standard letter. They may be sent anywhere and delivered the following day. The minimum charge allows for 50 words.

Faxing is a way to get your message to the committee immediately. You can also call the committee directly with your message, be sure to get their fax number at the same time.

Email can be an efficient way to send messages for those with computer capability. You can find individual addresses under Senate or House Home Pages

Timing

Timing is everything. Make your call at a strategic time — just before a vote, for instance, or immediately following action by your legislator in support of your cause. Write when you know a particular piece of legislation is pending before a committee or when a bill is about to come before the full House or Senate.

Some DOs and DON’Ts for Lobbyists

DO

DON’T
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From League of Women Voters of Washington Brochure How to Lobby Your Legislator 2004