Lobbying Dos & Don'ts

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Lobbying Dos and Don'ts

Dos . . .

Do know who represents you.  You can obtain this information from the Illinois State Board of Elections.  Keep phone numbers and addresses handy.  ISAE Legislative Directory is also a great source.

Do identify yourself by name and organization when talking with an elected official.

Do state a clear and concise message.  Avoid board statements and focus on what action you are asking for such as vote for HBXXXX

Do explain why the issue is important to you personally.  If possible, link the issue to a personal experience or a situation in the elected official's district.

Do be aware of previous actions the official has taken on the issue.

Do get to know your elected officials. Make an effort to appear at town meetings and other events, and be sure they hear you ask at least one question on your issues at each event.

Do get to know and develop a working relationship with key people.  Legislators listen to opinion leaders, so work with them whenever possible.

Do join forces with other types of groups that may have the position as you even if for different reasons.

Do wear many hats.  When lobbying legislators, identify yourself as a parent, businessperson, campaign contributor, or fellow church/club/team member.

Do work with legislative staff.  They often have more knowledge of the issues, can give you vital background on the legislation's outlook, and have clout.

Do get involved in legislative campaigns.  Volunteer to work, place a campaign sign in your yard, hand out leaflets, or otherwise help get someone elected.

Do learn how to work with your local press by developing a relationship with reporters and editors.

Do respond to action alerts.  Alerts are usually sent when legislation is close to passage or in a precarious position, so your action can make a tremendous difference.

Do provide feedback to your organization.  This helps the organization determine the effectiveness of strategy.

Don'ts . . . 

Don't threaten or antagonize a legislator even if he or she deserves it.  If an elected official opposes your viewpoint, but respects you and bears you no animosity, you may find common ground in the future on another issue.  But if you make an enemy, that person may take extra steps to defeat the bill your support.

Don't make enemies.  Today's city council member can be tomorrow's governor.

Don't refer to bills by their numbers alone.  Describe the issue and why you ar for or against it.

Don't fail to listen to the elected official's comments and questions on an issue.  If he or she asks how a bill will impact jobs, or medical care, or the budget, you'll know where her concern is focused.  Find ways to address those issues.

Don't ever lie to or mislead a legislator - trust is essential for a working relationship.

Don't overwhelm a legislator with too much information or paperwork.  They don't have time for it.  Provide them with whatever is key to their efforts and be ready to supply any other needed information.

Don't be inflexible.  Sometimes we have to compromise.  Learn legislative strategies that might save a bill otherwise destined to die, such as sunset provisions, grandfathering clauses, and placing provisions into a regulation instead of a statute.

Don't forget to thank someone who was helpful.  Whenever possible, let your membership know how helpful the person has been.

Don't use terms or abbreviations that may be unfamiliar to an official without explaining their meaning.