Getting To Know Your Member of Congress

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Description
This training goes over how to research and get to know your member of Congress, as well as what influences their decision-making and public policy support.
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TOC and Guide Section
 
Using “Fresh Eyes” to Learn About New and Returning Members of Congress

Using “Fresh Eyes” suggests taking a step back to look for what you may have missed before. As we seek to be aware of our own biases, we try to see what we missed. 

After an election with a new Congress and different party majorities, a returning member may have different priorities and policy objectives. Do not assume you can pick up where you left off last year. Congress will recalibrate depending on final election outcomes.

Freshmen members of Congress are on a huge learning curve and may not have decided where they stand on climate policies (and staff may not know either). They may have limited experience, or have no legislative experience at all. They also may be cautious and undecided on policy objectives. New MOCs love to meet their constituents. 

Our first priority with a new member is the relationship, a good first impression. Start by focusing on who we are (our volunteers are teachers, moms and business owners in the community). Then introduce them to CCL and our nonpartisanship and allow that to sink in. Let them talk by encouraging them to articulate their beliefs and listen. Acknowledge and affirm areas where you agree. Try to get a sense of their values and how they make decisions so you can get them to see common ground. Let them ask you about our policy agenda or ask permission to share more details about CCL and details of the policies we support. Open-ended questions and listening will be particularly important. 

When you engage with an existing MOC, reintroduce CCL, our mission and policy agenda. Learn if anything has changed with them post IRA/post election/etc. Highlight our focus, in this divided Congress, to build bridges and support bipartisan legislation.

Regarding Redistricting in 2022

For the Action Tracker: Anytime you connect with a current legislator no matter the medium, then it's "contact with the legislator." 

Anytime you meet with a candidate running for office, then the Action is "Grasstops Meeting" (there is no place for meeting notes, so we suggest you keep track of those details yourself).

For additional information on how CCL’s IT department handled redistricting, see their document explaining how it impacted CCL rosters, actions, and endorsements. 

Power Mapping to Identify Key Influencers

Build a biography of your member of Congress from reliable sources: 

(This is not the bio on CCL Community but your own chapter research on your member.)

Member details: 

  • Personal background/interests
  • Voting record
  • Committee assignments
  • Member donors and endorsers
  • House.gov or Senate.gov sites 
  • Campaign sites and social media
  • Open Secrets
  • District and DC staffers
  • MOC staffers @ LinkedIn
  • Past CCL meeting history

Demographics:

  • Census and Labor Data
  • Racial breakdown
  • Urban/rural split
  • Employment, worker, industry stats
  • Socio-economic, housing, education data
  • Past election margins, base voters, swing voters stats
  • Geography and natural resources

Helpful Tips: 

  • Committee work is a big part of MOC life - Watch for videos of hearings to get a sense of their thinking and passions (go to the Committee's website)
  • Sign up for your MOC e- newsletter
  • Become a follower on Facebook or Twitter
  • Media Resources link is on the Liaison Group home page.

Who does your member listen to (trusted messengers)? 

  • Local or national supporters, community leaders, endorsers, industry leaders, business owners, donors.

What does your member care about?

  • Constituent concerns that get attention?
  • What are they proud of?
  • Who do they spend time with?
  • Personal interests?

Power Mapping ... And the power of observation

  • What media do they pay attention to?
  • What topics do they post on social media?
  • What donors and business leaders influence them? 
  • What party leaders do they listen to?
  • Management and social style? 
  • How do they spend their time? 

Be open to “signals” from MOC and staff. Watch, Listen, Learn, Cultivate.

  • Understand your member anew
  • Assess your relationship
  • What steps are needed?
    • Assess  with “SWOT” - Strengths/Weaknesses/Opportunities/Threats
    • Be open to a reboot 
Knowing the Most Useful Information to Share

Initial information for your member

  • Introduction to CCL volunteers, Liaison and CCL lobby events
  • CCL is nonpartisan
  • CCL works on policies that are effective in reducing emissions and building bridges in Congress and in our community
  • CCL's policy agenda
    • Overview. Carbon pricing, healthy forests, building electrification, clean energy permitting. 
    • Details (if the MOC/staff shows interest)
    • From your MOC research, there might be one policy area that you think will appeal to them more than others - you can dive a little deeper into that area with the goal of gauging their interest and finding common ground.
  • Climate Solutions Caucuses, who is on it, who do they know?

Reports and studies  

How and When to Share Information

What are their gaps in knowledge? What is relevant to them?

  • How can you be a valued resource?
  • Bring in trusted messengers and influencers 
  • Share endorsements

Time and Place?  

  • Do they feel heard? Are they ready to hear you?
  • Share ahead of meeting, during meeting or with follow-up? 
  • Offer another meeting to cover unanswered questions
  • Know the limits of what they can hear so they listen when you do share!

What not to share is as important as what to share: 

  • Relevant, succinct information will raise your standing with the office. (irrelevant or lengthy emails may lower it)
  • Stay in the sweet spot. Look for signals that you are bringing them useful information.
Building a Foundation of Trust

The more you connect your case to your MOC’s values, the easier it is for your MOC to commit to action.

Length
Press play to start the video (13m 37s)
Video Outline
To skip ahead to a specific section go to the time indicated in parenthesis.

Introduction & Agenda
(0:00)

Using “Fresh Eyes” to Learn About New and Returning Members
(0:54)

Power Mapping to Identify Key Influencers
(4:53)

Knowing the Most Useful Information to Share
(10:01)

How and When to Share Information
(11:48)

Building a Foundation of Trust
(13:08)

Instructor(s)
  • Amy Bennett
Downloads
View or Download the Google Slides.
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Category
Training
Topics
Lobbying Congress
Format
Audio / Video
File Type
Google Slides