November 1, 2008
Draw your representative’s attention the old-fashioned way, with a letter. “Anyone can fire off an e-mail, and calls and visits are ineffective without a preexisting relationship,” says Ted Rueter, director of Noise Free America. Visit votesmart.org to find your representatives and their mailing addresses, and follow these guidelines:
1. State the fact that you’re a registered voter residing in your rep’s district. “Politicians are political animals,” says Rueter. “They like their jobs and they want to keep them, so, unfortunately, much of their interest is rooted in being reelected.”
2. Emphasize that the public agrees with you. Cite published opinion polls, recent rallies, or newspaper op-eds, or write on behalf of a citizens’ group.
3. Be friendly and polite. “Letters from cranks and know-it-alls end up in the recycling bin,” says Rueter.
4. State specifically what you’d like your rep to do. Want him or her to support a piece of legislation? Say so, and reference the bill directly. For a database of proposed legislation, go to thomas.loc.gov.
5. Work up the chain of command. “Professional lobbyists work with staff members,” says Rueter. Call the office and ask which legislative assistant handles your topic of concern. If you direct your letter to that person, you’ll have a shot at developing a relationship with someone with access and influence.