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How To Work With Existing Cosponsors

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So your member of Congress is a sponsor on the Energy Innovation Act. Hooray! But now what? This training provides guidance for continuing to maintain and build your relationship with your member of Congress.

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/topics/lobbying-strategy
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Background 

At Citizens' Climate Lobby, we never want to take for granted the support of the members of Congress who have supported the Energy Innovation Act. Anytime someone steps out and leads, there is the chance that they will get criticized, not just praised. All legislation is a product of compromise and will have its critics.  The Energy Innovation Act has critics from both the left and the right, and your member of Congress may be hearing from them. So follow these suggestions to find creative ways to keep them feeling good about being a cosponsor, including the following ideas.

Overview Of Working With Your Member
  • Constituent appreciation (calls, emails, social media, cards and letters) 
  • Media appreciation (letters to the editor, guest columns, newspaper editorials that praise them)
  • Support them on social media
  • Grow the endorsement list in the district and share it with your member of Congress
  • Ask other organizations to praise them (letters of support, positive media, joining you in a lobby meeting)
Provide Regular Progress Updates

Another role you can and should play is that of keeping them informed. 

  • For liaisons this means: very short email updates to the aide on new co-sponsors or endorsers, favorable media or other bill progress (on the Progress Page).
  • For constituents: use good news to anchor your letters/calls or media work
Being A Good Partner
  • Create opportunities for your member of Congress to be visible on climate action (in the district and in the media) according to their wishes
  • Support your member’s climate/environmental priorities as appropriate
  • Provide useful information and talking points (polling, responses to bill criticism, local climate impacts)
In Your Lobby Meetings
  • Continue to thank them and to show them support in the community for their action
  • Let them know what you know about the progress of the bill (including new co-sponsors) and ask them about their goals  for the Energy Innovation Act (how active do they want to be in promoting it?) and how you can help support them on climate and the environment generally 
  • Ask them how your chapter can help in the district with their climate agenda, for example organizing a local forum on climate or helping to gain the support of particular community influencers
  • Helping us educate the public or get endorsements (forums, op-eds, introductions)
  • Ask them about supporting one of the bills in our Supporting Asks resource
  • Ask your member of Congress to talk to their colleagues to encourage them to become cosponsors. Ask them for their advice or help with other members of your state delegation.
What To Focus On In-District

Members of Congress get a lot of negative feedback, so giving them appreciation for positive action helps them weather that and stay motivated to keep taking positive action. It is also useful for them to keep seeing evidence of support for their sponsorship. 

  1. Keep thanking your member for their cosponsorship with calls, emails, letters, letters to the editor in local newspapers, op-eds and social media posts.
  2. Continue collecting constituent comment forms that thank them.
  3. Keep getting endorsements. Leverage your member of Congress's support to get further endorsements that might be influential beyond your district (with your Senator or nationwide)
  4. Ask your newspaper to praise the member of Congress and endorse the bill.
  5. Educate the public on the Energy Innovation Act and your member of Congress’s support for it
  6. Ask others outside of CCL to thank your member of Congress - individuals as well as organizations, businesses, and community leaders.
  7. Think about the events you can invite your member of Congress to that offers them the opportunity to highlight their leadership on climate and the bill.
Using Communication Skills
  • Use open questions and be interested in their response
  • Reflect back what you are hearing
  • Identify and appreciate their underlying values
  • Ask permission to share information
  • Summarize your understanding and action steps at the end
Beyond Your Representative

Let’s not forget that we need to continue laying the groundwork for support once a Senate bill is introduced. We can work statewide on our Senators by:

  • Facilitating and growing the Monthly Calling Campaign in your area
  • Leading statewide teams or projects such as passing local resolutions, and coordinated outreach
  • Strengthening your state chapters by being a buddy to a smaller group or helping to start new ones in key places. We hear often from our members of Congress about the importance of having constituent volunteers around the country engaging with each member of Congress.
  • Help the national effort by generating more endorsements
  • Join and build up a national action team and their work with outreach, skills, and recruitment/retention
The Champion Scale

You can also consider working with your member to go beyond partnership to something even stronger. Sam Daley-Harris, the founder of RESULTS, developed what he calls the "Champion Scale," explored further below. When talking with volunteer advocates, Sam often would hear them express "my member of Congress is so good or so bad that there’s no need to meet with them. Based on interviewing many CCL group leaders he provided earlier training (Creating Champions in Congress and in the Media) and has provided the following framework for each of us in our relationships with our member of Congress to help assess where our member might be and determine how we might take a new approach to move them up the scale and move the relationship with them forward. 

  1. Opposed: I think we can agree that the farthest you can get from being a champion on our issue is being opposed.  A member of Congress or other elected officials who are opposed might say, ‘I don’t support that,’ or ‘my constituents wouldn’t support that,’ or ‘what you’re talking about isn’t even a problem,’ or ‘I agree that it is a problem but I can’t support your solution.’
  2. Neutral or Uninformed: The next level up from opposed is neutral or uninformed.  Someone who is neutral might say, ‘I need more information,’ or ‘can you explain it to me more fully,’ or ‘could you give me materials to read so I can make a more informed decision?’
  3. Supporter: The next level up from neutral is supporter.  A supporter might say, ‘I’ll co-sponsor that,’ or ‘I think that is a good solution and I can get behind it.’
  4. Advocate: The next level up from supporter is advocate.  An advocate might say, ‘now that I’m a co-sponsor I think it is important to build support for this,’ or ‘I am going to talk with others in Congress about supporting it,’ or ‘Could you help me draft an op-ed for our paper so we can educate my constituents?’
  5. Leader and Spokesperson: The next level up from advocate is a leader and spokesperson.  A leader and spokesperson might be the lead sponsor on a bill or the initiator of a sign-on letter or a caucus on our issue. A leader steps up their advocacy, by becoming a lead cosponsor or a spokesperson for the bill. In your cases, your sponsors would start to work closely with the bill lead sponsors, Rep. Deutch and Rooney, to plan with them.
  6. Champion: The final level is a champion.  I don’t like it when groups cheapen the term champion and call anyone who does anything good a champion.  A champion is someone who is so passionate they are in front of CCL and pushing for us to catch up. A champion goes even further than all the other levels, if you can imagine. A champion is so passionate about the legislation that it is their signature effort, or the legacy they want to leave. They come up with ideas and ask us to help. They might say ‘I have arranged for 5 of my Democratic Colleagues and 5 of my Republican colleagues to host town hall meetings on the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act and I need your help finding speakers for some of those 10 cities.’  Sam feels strongly that we shouldn’t call sponsors “champions” but reserve this term for people who are truly determined to pass this legislation. 
Length
Press play to start the video (31m 32s)
https://vimeo.com/showcase/6775768
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

Constant Love
(2:26)

Champion Scale
(9:40)

In Your Lobby Meetings
(14:26)

Communication Skills
(25:35)

Beyond Your Representative
(28:06)
Instructor(s)
  • Elizabeth Dell
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Download the video.
Audio length
Press play to start the audio (31m 32s)
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Audio Outline

To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Intro & Agenda
(from beginning)

Constant Love

(2:26)

Champion Scale 

(9:40)

In Your Lobby Meetings 

(14:26)

Communication Skills 

(25:35)

Beyond Your Representative

(28:06)

 

Instructor(s)
  • Elizabeth Dell
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Category
Training
Topics
Lobbying Congress
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Audio / Video
File Type
PDF (.pdf)