Loud And Clear

Going It Alone

Individual lobbying isn't as hard as you might think. Sure, it takes time, commitment and persistence, but the impact you can have on an issue may surprise you. Of course, there are tricks of the trade and inside tips you need to know, but don't think for a minute that only top lobbyists get results.

Your first step is finding out who your representatives are, if you don't already know, and learning as much as you can about them. "Make sure you're talking or communicating with someone who can do something for you," says Stephanie Vance, a former congressional aide and author of Government by the People: How to Communicate with Congress (AdVanced Consulting). In the House of Representatives, you need to know who represents your district; he or she will be your primary contact. On the Senate side, you can reach out to both your state's senators.

The next step in your lobbying campaign? Because the various House and Senate committees do the bulk of the real legislative work, you need to find out what committees your representative and senators sit on. Taking a quick look at their Web sites will yield that information. It's also crucial to find out where your member is on a committee's food chain. If your representative is low-ranking, you can ask that he or she lobby a more senior member.

"Knowing what committees your representative or senator is on can change what you ask him to do for you," Vance explains. If your representative doesn't sit on a committee that's relevant to the issue you're concerned about, he or she can still help you reach a member of the appropriate committee. If your issue is important enough to your congressperson, he or she may even do a little political horse-trading on your behalf.

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This article was originally published in the February 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Loud And Clear.

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