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Federal advocacy update

Leslie Mozingo serves as a federal government relations consultant to the NCACC. After graduating from the University of Alabama in 1988, Leslie immediately moved to Washington, D.C. to start working for a Congressman. She left Capitol Hill to become a federal lobbyist in a firm where she remained for nearly 23 years until she launched Strategics Consulting. Contact Leslie at (202) 255-5760 or leslie@strategics.consulting. Website: www.strategics.consulting.

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Jul 20

August recess a chance for home cookin'

Posted on July 20, 2016 at 10:55 AM by Todd McGee

Congress annually breaks from all legislative activity during the month of August to allow for time in home states in order to connect with constituents and potential voters. Members typically hold Town Hall meetings or participate in local civic events, particularly during election years. As a result, August provides an ideal time to meet with your Members of Congress locally, saving both time and money compared to scheduling the same meeting in Washington, D.C. Take advantage of this opportunity to reinforce the importance of county issues, thank them for items accomplished and request action needed before the end of the 114th Congress.

Any legislation not signed into law before the end of the Second Session of any Congress, such as now with the impending adjournment sine die of the 114th Congress, must start the whole process over during the next Congress. Therefore, meetings locally during the August Recess are extremely timely. Hearing from local elected officials can often change the minds of federal lawmakers. Meeting personally outside of D.C. also helps you develop, improve and maintain important, personal and political relationships with your Congressional members.

Getting started

  • Call the office located nearest to you. Most offices have different staff for scheduling appointments in the state than those who handle the scheduling for D.C. meetings.
  • You may be asked to submit the request by email.
  • Provide names, titles and possible times for an appointment.
  • Consider inviting your member(s) to your location for meeting with more than one local elected official and staff leadership.
  • Check in with the scheduler a week before the meeting to confirm date, time and location.

Know your audience

  • Research ahead of time how your member has voted on the key issues you plan to discuss.
  • Re-familiarize yourself on their committee and subcommittee assignments, as well as any special interests he/she has, such as participation in any of the Congressional Caucuses.
  • A quick review of their Congressional website or through internet searches will reveal a lot of useful information. Look for common interests (i.e. hobbies, alma mater, family, etc.).
  • Although the preferred meeting is always elected official to elected official, if that is not possible this time ask if the Chief of Staff or Legislative Director will be in the district/state and available.
  • Members of Congress rely heavily on their staff for advice and recommendations, so building a strong working relationship with a staff person can often be just as valuable as direct contact. Treat any meeting with staff the same as you would with a Congressional representative in terms of preparation and presentation.

Be prepared

  • Review your materials and talking points ahead of time, being sure to include local examples.
  • Avoid colloquial statements and instead back your statements with proven data and stakeholder endorsements any time you can.
  • Take extra copies of handouts to be left behind.
  • Have plenty of business cards to hand out.

Know the ask

  • Begin and end the meeting with an explanation or reminder of your county’s legislative concerns and what you are asking for.
  • The request for action may be different from one member to another depending on the person’s committee position, political affiliation or voting record.
  • Do not assume the public official’s position based just on their political party. Members of Congress do not always follow the party line if it is important to their voters; they can and often will change their minds if given good reasons for a new position.
  • Do not discuss fundraising or political grievances during advocacy meetings. Stick to the issues and why they are important to your county and the voters you share.

Follow up

  • It is fine not to have all the answers. If you promise to get back to the member with an answer, make sure to do so.
  • Take photos during the meeting and post them on your social media sites.
  • Send a thank you note to the member and any staff that you met with regardless of whether you are supplying additional information or not.
  • Provide useful feedback to NCACC’s public policy staff.
  • Don’t give up. The policy making process can take a long time, often years.