Capitol Hill Visits: How to Achieve Your Public Policy Goals

Welcome back to our ongoing series to help you advance your public policy success when conducting Washington, D.C., fly-ins with your employees and members.

Your goalCongress seal for your Hill visit campaign may be to gin up support for a particular piece of legislation. Or you may have your eye on scuttling a proposal that threatens your industry, membership, or livelihood. Then again, you may simply be at the beginning stages, working to develop relationships with policymakers who are important to your goals.

Your grassroots activists need a working knowledge of any legislation that affects your organization. Teach them what any proposed law intends to do; how it affects you, your customers, or your members; and why you think it is good or bad. Keep in mind: Never overload them with information under any circumstances. They do not need to be familiar with every jot and tittle of the bill; that’s the job of your government relations staff. Their role is to share stories about the real world impact.

Empower them with a working knowledge of certain key substantive facts:

  • What bills are pending before key committees?
  • What pertinent legislation has just been tossed into the hopper?
  • Which specific section of an omnibus bill do you need to bring to the attention of your elected representatives?
  • What similar legislation failed to pass previous Congresses?
  • Are they any efforts in the works to revive those failed bills?
  • What political dynamics do I need to consider? For example, would it help or hurt my cause to state that Senator X supports our stance?

Other questions to consider: Who are the players? How do they fit into the Hill hierarchy? What previous interactions have they had with your organization? Who is for us? Who is against us? Who is sitting on the fence? What is the member’s level of knowledge on your issue—is it his specialization or does he know next to nothing?

What other specifics would you be wise to consider during your preparation phase? Make it a point to familiarize your team with any love/hate relationships with lawmakers or Hill staff. On the positive side, you may deal with a senator who consistently supports your organization or a committee staffer who routinely feeds your government relations staff with reliable information. On the other hand, you also need to know whether your organization has crossed swords with the chairman or ranking minority member of a committee or one of their minions.

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