Archives for grassroots lobbying

The Five Types of Elected Officials

elected officialsIf you’ve been paying attention to politics for any length of time you’ve probably noticed that there are several different types of elected officials. Not just in terms of partisanship or ideology, but in the sense of how active or vocal they are.

If you’ve ever done any lobbying, you’ve noticed a difference in how reliable they are in terms of their vote and how hard you have to work to nail them down.

Here’s a shorthand way to categorize elected officials:

Hopeless:

These are the guys (and gals) that are so far on the other side of the street that you can forget about wasting the time even thinking about getting them on board with anything you support. Pretty much all liberals will fit into this category.

High Maintenance:

These are officials you have to constantly watch and check in with on virtually every issue. Whether it’s because they are constantly trying to make everyone happy, have their fingers in the wind, or are just more concerned about themselves, you end up spending a lot of time chasing them and bringing pressure on them to make sure they vote right when the time comes. And even then sometimes you come up short.

Low Maintenance:

They’re not completely reliable, but it doesn’t take as much time or pressure to bring them around. But the point is that they still require some time and effort.

No Maintenance:

Just like the label implies, you never have to question what they will do and you can always count on them to vote right, whether they get pressured or not. They’re “on the team”, and you don’t have to waste time on them, freeing you up to focus on the first two groups.

Team Leaders:

Not only are they “No Maintenance”, but they will actively help move ideas, drive debate and publicly advance the cause.  Whether it’s the public speakers or the behind-the-scenes legislative “mechanics”, they’re the true leaders of the conservative movement in government at all levels.

Knowing what type of category elected officials usually fit into can help when it comes to doing any type of grassroots lobbying, as it gives you an idea of who you have to work on, who you can count on no matter what, and who will help you advance your agenda.

If you’re actually engaged in any sort of grassroots lobbying on any issue, take some time to take inventory of the elected officials you have to deal with and categorize them accordingly so you’ll know where to spend your time, energy and resources.

Now, quick quiz: which one of these five types of elected officials do we need more of?

The more conservatives who actually get involved and “do something”, the more maintenance we can do on the elected officials who need it – and the more people we can elect who will actually help advance the cause.

 

Local Lobbying (or How to Fight City Hall)

local lobbyingHave a problem with local government? You’re not the first and you certainly won’t be the last. But what can you do about it?  That’s were local lobbying comes in.

Keep in mind that there are some key differences between lobbying for local change, versus at the state or national levels.  And there are some specific tactics that you should keep in mind to be more effective in local lobbying.

Unique Aspects of Local Government:

One Chamber: As opposed to state legislatures and Congress, whether you’re talking about school boards, city/county councils or commissions, you’re only dealing with one group of elected officials, rather than two.

Fewer Officials: The typical local government has fewer elected officials to keep an eye on, (the national average is six), versus potentially hundreds at higher levels.

They Represent Fewer People: Local elected officials represent far fewer constituents.  This means that they are more susceptible to organized, outside pressure.

Fewer Targets: When you have fewer elected officials that means that there are going to be fewer “undecided” or persuadable officials that you need to target…possibly just one or two.

Local Lobbying Tips:

Learn the Process: There can be wide variances in the legislative process (from cities, to counties, to school boards), so research how the process works in your area.  Contact your local council or board member and ask for information.  The more you know about the process in your area, the more effective you will be.

Do Your Research and Identify Your Targets: Find out exactly where they stand, and then relentlessly focus all of your time and attention on the undecided/persuadable votes.  When you consider that you’re focusing on just a couple of officials who themselves represent a small number of constituents, this gives you tremendous leverage.

Choose the Right Lobbying Tactics: Phone calls, letters, emails, personal visits, petitions, something else or all of the above?  “What” you do can depend on how much time you have and how many people are willing to help.  Choose those that best leverage your resources.  (You can see some of the basics in my “Nine Grassroots Opportunities” report).

Get to Know Them: Personal relationships at this level of government go farther than at the state and national levels.  Make an effort to get to know them personally.  Contribute to and help the ones who think like you do.  Be active in local organizations that they are involved in (especially the local GOP).  Remember, “politics is people”!

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You can “beat City Hall” (or any other local government), but you need to do your homework first.  And don’t forget, most state and national politicians used to be local politicians – so investing in local lobbying can pay big lobbying dividends in the future!

What Effective Lobbying Looks Like

effective lobbyingEver complain about your point of view not being reflected in government?

Before you complain, make sure it’s not your fault.

Our form of government – representative self-government – relies on the feedback and involvement of citizens in order to actually “represent” them.  That means you help government operate more effectively (for you!) by contacting elected officials on a regular basis – whether they like it or not.

But when it comes to contacting elected officials, just remember the old adage that “it’s not what you say, but how you say it”.

How you say something can be just as important as what you say.  As Hubert Humphrey put it, “The right to be speak does not necessarily include the right to be taken seriously”.  If you have something important to say about government, take the time to say it in the most effective way possible.

Effective Lobbying Plays on How They Think

To understand how to lobby effectively it helps to get inside the mind of an elected official, (despite how scary that may seem with some politicians).  Generally they’re overly concerned with their next election, which means they’re constantly trying to get a handle on what voters think.

That’s where effective lobbying – (and YOU) – comes in.

The Tip of the Iceberg

Many legislators get a sense of their district through what could be called the “iceberg phenomenon”.   They represent thousands of people and, since they can’t get to know them all, they tend to look at people they come in contact with as representing “the tip of an iceberg” – and they don’t want to be the Titanic.  For example, if twenty people write their office asking them to vote against a particular bill, they think that there must be hundreds more who feel the same way but just didn’t write.

As a grassroots activist, this gives you a tremendous opportunity.  By joining together with others in a combined effort, you can have an impact that far exceeds your numbers.

Spontaneity Counts

A natural consequence of the iceberg phenomenon is that the more spontaneous the contact, the greater the impact.

If a grassroots campaign looks orchestrated, (such as a petition drive), it may tend to be discounted.  The town hall meeting and the grocery store illustrate the point.  If three people ask a question about tax increases during the open-ended question and answer time at a town hall meeting, a legislator will think that a lot of people are concerned.  But if three people stop them in the grocery store to ask about tax increases, they think “everyone” must be talking about it.

Personal is Better

The more personal the contact is, the more effective it will be.  For example, a stack of thirty postcards can be viewed as just “pieces of paper’, but thirty people at a meeting, (or showing up at their office), creates a more vivid and lasting impression.

Make it personal, but be polite.

Of course this doesn’t mean that if you engage in effective lobbying, then everything government does will suddenly start swinging your way, especially since there are other opinions out there besides yours.  But it does mean that YOURS will at least be heard…and be added to those of people who think like you do.

Don’t make it easy for them to ignore your views.

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Have any thoughts or lobbying experiences of your own to share?  Add them in the comments section below.