Posts tagged ‘grassroots lobbyist’

Who Influences Legislators?

If you have ever wanted to take a position on a particular piece of legislation and take action to persuade the decision making of Congress but felt you did not have any hope of doing so, it is important to understand how legislators are influenced. The decision making of any legislator is primarily dominated by their constituents. With that said, just as it is important for anyone to consult a variety of resources before making an important decision, members of Congress follow the same pattern. They often consult family as well as friends, people they work with and subject matter experts.

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Legislators are like the rest of us. Their family and friends have their ear when it comes time to make a difficult decision. Legislators tend to speak with the people they trust the most and this includes their family and friends.

Acquaintances with more than a passing interest on a matter can also influence members of Congress. Legislators tend to know a lot of people. If an acquaintance has knowledge of a particular topic they can provide a lot of influence. Legislators also tend to pay attention to colleagues they respect. In many cases, legislators may actually seek out guidance from experts who have studied an issue and who bring their own perspective to the debate. This is particularly true of other members of Congress. Junior members of Congress may choose Citizen's Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: Citizen Advocacy in State Legislatures and Congress: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates, by Brad Fitchto sit back and wait to see how senior members are going to vote before determining their own position on an issue.

Legislative leaders can also exert quite a bit of pressure on fellow legislators. There is definitely a hierarchy within Congress and members of the House of Representatives tend to be far more susceptible to influence than senators simply because House rules make it possible for leadership to establish the agenda.

What about lobbyists? How much influence do lobbyists actually exert over members of Congress? The common perception by the public is that it is quite a bit. The truth of the matter is that lobbyists only rarely determine policy outcomes. Organized citizens are more often responsible for determining policy outcomes.

If you have ever thought that you did not have a chance of making an impact, think again. It takes motivation and organization, but it is possible.

To learn more about about the way legislators approach decision making, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1/2 day course, Congress in a Nutshell, and the 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Citizen’s Handbook, by Bradford Fitch, Chapter 4 People Who Can Influence Legislators.

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For more information about working with Congress, see these resources from TheCapitol.Net:

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Who Really Has the Power in Washington? The Surprise Answer: Ordinary American Citizens

Feeling shut out of the political process by lobbyists and special interests? Insider Bradford Fitch has some good news for you: As it turns out, you’re the one in charge—NOT those rich and powerful lobbyists.

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Brad Fitch’s latest book, Citizen’s Handbook To Influencing Elected Officials: Citizen Advocacy in State Legislatures and Congress: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates, makes a compelling case for the power of the ordinary citizen to influence members of Congress—IF you understand how to do it right.

Fitch, who worked on Capitol Hill for 13 years as press secretary, legislative director, and chief of staff for four different members of Congress, interviewed dozens of Senators, members of the House of Citizen's Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: Citizen Advocacy in State Legislatures and Congress: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates, by Brad FitchRepresentatives, and key staff to provide a comprehensive guide to getting members of Congress to listen—and act.

And according to these consummate Washington insiders, the real power in Washington is neither in huge campaign donations, nor in high-pressure special interest campaigns. Rather, the power rests with the well-informed, well-prepared, polite but persuasive constituent. Yes, ordinary citizens can gain access, be heard, and see their input influence the way a member of Congress votes.

Some key points:

  • It’s much easier to influence a decision before the Member makes a public commitment.
  • Personal stories trump everything.
  • Provide useful information, and you’ll be rewarded with access: “The most valuable gift a lobbyist gives a member of Congress isn’t a campaign contribution—it’s a detailed analysis of how a particular issue affects the lawmaker’s district or state”.
  • When you speak for a larger group, your words carry more weight: “One House Democrat…summed it up. ‘Their money is beside the point. They can mobilize and intensify a group of motivated constituents who can put the fear of God in members of Congress”. But preparedness can outweigh numbers.

The book includes several success tips checklists, including ten points to manage a face-to-face meeting, seven hints to get written communications noticed, and six things staffers look for in a phone call. A matrix chart of how legislators rank different issues is one of eight useful appendices. The book also includes the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence.

For more information about Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials, including sample section and secure online ordering, see

2010, 128 pages
Softcover, $11.95
ISBN 10: 1587331810
ISBN 13: 9781587331817

Ebook: $7.99
EISBN 13: 9781587332326

Journalists and Bloggers: to request interviews and review copies, contact the publisher: 703-739-3790, ext. 0, or use this form.


Coming soon: A Better Congress: Change the Rules, Change the Results: A Modest Proposal – Citizen’s Guide to Legislative Reform, by Joseph Gibson

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