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Tools for Advocating to Elected Officials

Establishing relationships with your elected officials is the most effective way to communicate the depth of support for Israel among their own constituents. As developments in the region pose new questions and challenges, Members of Congress should hear the views of their own pro-Israel constituents. There are multiple ways to put issues on a Member’s radar screen and having an issue raised by different constituents in a range of venues demonstrates local support to Members of Congress and their staff.

Lobby Members at Home

There is no substitute for a Member of Congress hearing from constituents who embody local support for strong U.S.-Israel relations. Regular visits when Members are home in their Districts and ongoing contact and engagement make even a small constituency more visible and significant. Prior to each Congressional recess, contact the District Scheduler of your Senators and Representatives to schedule meetings with the Members to discuss current developments.

Town Hall Meetings

The literally thousands of town hall meetings convened across the country in each session of Congress provide another vehicle to convey the personal importance of support for Israel in their community. Contact the District Offices of your Congressional Delegation to find out how you can be notified of upcoming town hall, “tele-town hall” or other community meetings in your area. It might facilitate a more in depth and productive discuss if you notify a Member’s staffer in advance if you plan to raise an Israel-related issue. Connect with the Member’s staff at the meeting so that you can follow up with them after the event.

Write Letters

While a face-to-face meeting is most effective, Congressional staff monitor the number of letters received in support of or in opposition to an issue. Letters on policy issues should be sent to the Member’s Washington office. Faxing or emailing a scanned copy of a letter is preferable for contact regarding fast moving legislation since increased security procedures have caused delay in mail delivery to Capitol Hill.

  • Address only one issue per letter so the letter is directed to a specific staffer.
  • Be concise and to the point. State the purpose of the letter up front.

To a Senator:

The Honorable (first and last name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator ---:

To a Representative:

The Honorable (first and last name)
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Representative ---:

E-mail

Congressional offices increasingly process and respond to constituent e-mail, especially if it is personalized as opposed to a cookie cutter message. Be sure to include your home address and indicate that you live in the Member’s district and use the same guidelines as you would for crafting a letter.

Phone Calls

Calls convey a heightened sense of urgency and are only warranted when legislative action is imminent. Congressional offices keep a tally of calls to gauge public sentiment in their district. Be prepared to supply your address to verify that you live in the district. Call the Capitol switchboard, (202) 225-3121, to connect to your Member’s office.

Invite Members to Speak

Members of Congress welcome opportunities to speak at community meetings or other events. Host forums and voter education/ registration initiatives with candidates to educate them about your concerns.

Reach Out to Congressional Staff

Getting to know the Congressional staff in the district and in Washington is vital in facilitating ongoing communication with the Member of Congress and impacting policy. Congressional aides frequently meet with constituents while Members are called to vote or to attend committee hearings and meetings. Not only are they the Member’s eyes and ears and help shape how a Member votes, but staffers often move on to leadership positions themselves. Staffers provide a vital link in facilitating ongoing communication with the Member of Congress. Take these meetings seriously and communicate your message clearly.

Get to Know Local Elected Officials and Candidates

The best relationships with officials are those which began in their early careers in state and local offices. Today's candidate for City Council may be tomorrow's Senator. Although these officials and candidates focus on local issues, they can be important voices in support of Israel in the community and beyond.

LOBBYING TIPS

Advance Preparation
  • Designate who will speak for the delegation. One person should introduce the group, others may take the lead in discussing the separate issues, or taking notes.
  • Learn about what the Member has done or said on your issues.
  • Prepare background material or articles of interest on the issue. You may not have time for a full discussion and should leave behind additional resources.
At the Meeting
  • Be brief. Introduce the delegation quickly, underlining the connection with the Member’s home district. Keep your presentation of issues to a minute or two.
  • Describe local support for Israel including from other allies in your community.
  • Get to the point and request a specific action of support.
  • Leave plenty of time to hear out the Member about his/her views and reactions.
If the Member Disagrees...
  • Disagree without being disagreeable. While Members may have a different view, focus on the commonality of your commitment to Israel and to finding a just and lasting peace between Israel and her neighbors.
  • Stay focused. If the Member disagrees, they may try to divert the conversation onto another topic. Be sure to communicate concerns clearly.
If the Member Agrees...
  • Thank him/her for support and reiterate the importance of the issue you and to their constituents. Most letters, calls, and e-mails to Congressional offices are negative – which leaves Members with the impression that their positive actions go unnoticed.
  • Let them know you are available as a resource and to provide support for the Member’s work on the issues.
Keep Lines of Communication Open...
  • Send a thank you note to the Member and staffer with whom you met. Take the opportunity to reconfirm any commitments made. If he/she is undecided, restate your arguments and enclose additional information supporting your point.
  • Continue to correspond with your Member and invite staff to community events.
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