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Do’s and Don’ts of Working with Congress

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DOs

  1. Do learn members' committee assignments and where their specialties lie.
  2. Do identify the aide(s) that handle the issues and build a relationship with them.
  3. Do present the need for what you're asking the member to do. Use reliable information.
  4. Do relate situations in their home state or district to legislation.
  5. Do, in the case of voting records, ask why the member voted the way she/he did.
  6. Do show openness to knowledge of the counterarguments.
  7. Do admit what you don't know. Offer to find out and send information back to the office.
  8. Do spend time even when the member has a position against yours. You can lessen the intensity of his/her opposition, or you might even change her/his position.

DON'Ts

  1. Don't overload a congressional lobby visit with too many issues. One visit for one or two topics.
  2. Don't confront, threaten, pressure, or beg or speak with a moralistic tone.
  3. Don't be argumentative; speak with calmness and commitment so as not to put them on the defensive.
  4. Don't use easy ideological arguments.
  5. Don't overstate the case. Members and staff are very busy.
  6. Don't expect members to be specialists; their schedule and workload make them generalists.
  7. Don't make promises you can't keep.
  8. Don't leave the visit without leaving a position or fact sheet in the office.

 

*Thanks to the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America for helping with this list.