Advocacy with Members of Congress (MOCs) and Other Elected Officials
A lot of information and advice can be found online regarding effective advocacy with MOCs (Senators and Representatives), although not all of it is consistent. Here is some basic information, subject to refinement as we gain experience interacting with our elected officials. The same principles generally apply to advocating with our elected officials at the state and local levels.
A number of strategies are available for attempting to influence one’s MOCs, including petitions, social media messaging (Twitter, Facebook, etc.), letters, emails, phone calls, visits to the MOC’s office, attendance at an MOC’s town hall meeting or other public event, and letters to the editor. Generally speaking, the more effort a form of advocacy requires, the greater the chance it has of influencing the MOC’s views.
Here’s some general guidance on advocacy from the Indivisible Team:
WHAT YOUR MOC CARES ABOUT
When it comes to constituent interactions, MOCs care about things that make them look good, responsive, and hardworking to the people of their district. In practice, that means that they care about some things very much, and other things very little:
YOUR MOC CARES A LOT ABOUT
YOUR MOC DOESN’T CARE MUCH ABOUT
|Verified constituents from the district (or state for Senators)
||People from outside the district (or state for Senators)
|Advocacy that requires effort — the more effort, the more they care: calls, personal emails, and especially showing up in person in the district
||Form letters, a tweet, or a Facebook comment (unless they generate widespread attention)
|Local press and editorials, maybe national press
||Wonky DC-based news (depends on the MOC)
|An interest group’s endorsement
||Your thoughtful analysis of a proposed bill
|Groups of constituents, locally famous individuals, or big individual campaign contributors
||A single constituent
|Concrete asks that entail a verifiable action — vote for a bill, make a public statement, etc.
||General ideas about the world
|A single ask in your communication — letter, email, phone call, office visit, etc.
||A laundry list of all the issues you’re concerned about
Former U.S. Representative Barney Frank adds two pieces of advice. First, make sure you’re registered to vote in the district. “Many office holders will check this, especially for people who write to them frequently. Elected officials pay as much attention to those who are not registered to vote as butchers do to the food preferences of vegetarians.”
Second, before contacting your MOC about an issue, try to find out if he or she has already taken a position on it. The MOC may have posted a statement on the issue on his/her website, and an Internet search may reveal if the MOC has talked about it in a speech or interview. If you’re advocating on a bill, checking www.congress.gov for the bill will disclose if your MOC is already a cosponsor. Frank says, “When I received letters from people urging me to vote for a bill of which I was the prominent main sponsor, I was skeptical that the writer would be watching how I voted.”
Return to the main Advocacy page to explore the various tools available for advocacy.