Today (March 16th), The Huffington Post linked to the video of a CBS investigation GOP Freshman and Fundraisers. This somewhat salacious piece suggested (wait, no, actually stated) that people who attend fundraisers gain the kind of access to legislators that regular citizens can only dream of. While this may seem like a “dog bites man” kind of story, it concerns me because it perpetuates the myth that you can’t talk to your elected officials unless you attend a fundraiser. Believe it or not, your power of constituency is all you need to meet with, bend the ear of and, yes, even influence legislators. For your own influence effort, this means that you need to know WHY you’re relevant to a decision-maker, and it’s not always for the reasons you think.
How do I know this? For practically every minute of every day from about February through May, someone in my office is making appointments for advocates from all around the country to meet with policymakers. There are no fundraisers involved. The magic words are “we have a constituent in town who would like to meet with you.” When we say those words, we get a meeting. Don’t believe me? Here are some stats on the percentage of constituent-based meetings with legislative offices that we were able to schedule, without bribery, manipulation or lying. These are just a few of our events, but the statistics hold true for our other groups as well:
- American Association of Museums 2011: 96% of the meetings requested
- Lupus Foundation: 100% of meetings requested
- Synthetic Turf Council: 100% of meetings requested
- American Planning Association: 98% of meetings requested
- American Association of Museums 2012: 99.8% of the meetings requested
- YWCA: 100% of the meetings requested
- National Association of Electrical Distributors: 100% of the meetings requested
To me, these stats point out that you don’t have to pay to speak. And if everyone keeps thinking that it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Oh, and speaking of the National Association of Electrical Distributors, here’s a link to a video outlining THEIR point of view on meeting with Capitol Hill. Pretty good stuff.
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