"Tu eres nu otro yo"
Within my heart resides
a particle of every being
on this earth
so says every great teacher
One wonders what
comes over governments
that are made up of people
as they kill thousands
All parts of themselves
dying every day
a completely new spin
on what extinction means
When will the bridge be crossed
then burned to the ground
our humanity transforming
into something much less
It is wise to remember
The Mayan saying "In Lak Ech"
I carry a part of you
Inside of me, we are not separate
to Lobby Your Congressperson
By Ying Lee
While I served as Legislative Director for Congresswoman Barbara
Lee in her Washington office, I worked with Ann Ginger on several
Meiklejohn projects. She found the collaboration fruitful and
asked that I share my thoughts with you on how constituents
may better use their Congressional representatives' offices.
Although my 16 years of work with Congressman Dellums and then
with Barbara Lee dealt with our Oakland, Berkeley, and Albany,
California districts I believe that my experience reflects that
of most congressional assistants and aides.
Each member of the House has at least two offices. One in D.C.,
which is known as the "personal" office, and one or
more "district" offices. Staff in D.C. are generally
"legislative" assistants, while district staff are
"administrative" assistants. D.C. staff deal with
legislation; district staff deal primarily with constituent
advocacy – both in terms of problems with federal agencies
(Medicare, Social Security, Veterans, IRS, etc.) and inquiries
and opinion regarding current events and legislation. District
staff are also assigned issue areas: housing, banking, foreign
affairs, taxes, etc., and serve as liaison between constituents
and the D.C. office.
To make your opinion known:
A simple call to the district office is as effective as calling
the D.C. office and saves you a long-distance call. If you want
a response, ask for it and follow up. E-mail and "snail"
mail also work but remember that staff are always overworked
and e-mail and snail mail take greater resources to respond
If you want more activity on an issue:
Call the local office to get the name of the legislative aid
who works on that issue.
Call him/her and give a brief description of your issue and
need (very brief) and say that you will follow it up with e-mail
or snail mail.
If you have a long-standing issue (as Palestinians/Israel, Nuclear
Ignition Facility, or the UN).
Find out from activists what has been done on the issue and
then ask to talk to the district aid who liaison on that issue.
A personal visit is an option. On complex matters I would recommend
this procedure: an introductory phone call to be followed up
by mail or by a personal visit with efficient documentation.
If you have a constituency:
You can either ask for a courtesy visit with a staff member
or with the Congresswoman. It is important to be clear and up
front as to the purpose of your visit.
Representatives need to know the strength of your troops and
On conventional lobbying:
There are 435 members of the House. Each representative is technically,
and realistically, only responsible for the constituents in
her district. Writing, calling, etc., to other members is wasteful
of your efforts and the staff of that office. Each personal
office mail-phone handler has strict instructions to refer an
out-of-district request or opinion to her/his representative.
Sometimes such mail is just put into the circular file as are
phone messages. There is too much work and an out of district
person has no vote for the boss.
--To influence other members of the House, reach your contacts
in that member's district and have them communicate with their
--Do not sign on to Working Assets lobbying efforts. Rep. Dellums
and Lee received thousands of WA letters in support of issues
that they had supported on the record for years. This took many
hours and much stationery and first class postage to respond
to each letter. Political effect: Zilch (except for great irritation
--Constituents and activists love petitions. I believe they
are useless. I was conscientious and saved them in limited office
space only to toss them out in the biannual cleanup. So much
work, so much paper, but meaningless. At least collect one buck
for each signature -- then you can do more.
--Constituents, with judicious sense, can work closely with
legislative staff on particular issues: to introduce information,
legislation, support from other members on issues. If there
is interest in this, we can address it in another issue of this