Things To Know About Capitol Hill
1. Daily reads - read what politicians read: Roll Call (www.rollcall.com), Politico (www.politico.com), The Hill (www.thehill.com).
2. Congress.org – free info on each Member including key staff (to contact key staff, take Chief of Staff’s name and apply the format email@example.com to reach most anyone on the House side; firstname.lastname@Senator’slastname.senate.gov for Senate staff)
3. When you want to schedule an appointment, e-mail the Scheduler and cc the Chief of Staff. Follow up with the Scheduler later that day. You may be asked to fax your appointment request too.
- Note if you are a constituent or if you will be bringing one, and if you have contributed to the Member’s campaign.
- Schedule 2-3weeks ahead (no more, no less).
4. Type your company’s zip code into the Member finder on house.gov to find your Congressman. Don’t just focus on your headquarters – you ought to meet with more Congressmen by advocating for your satellite offices too. One company with five regional offices ought to be meeting personally with at least five different Members of Congress.
5. Assemble the best team for your meeting. Attack this meeting as you would the biggest sales opportunity ever for your company or cause.
- Does the Member have a known preference for men/women; older/younger; story tellers/direct?
- What nuances from the Member’s biography and Committee assignments can you exploit? Visiting the Financial Services Committee – bring your CFO. If the Member a Veteran, start off your meeting by mentioning your branch and dates of service. Heard that the Member is recovering from recent minor surgery, use an anti-bacterial hand wash just before you shake hands to let them know you care.
- Constituents, constituents, constituents – bring someone who casts votes in that Member’s district.
6. Be a source of political, business, etc. intelligence for the Member – what do you know that is going on back in the district that he may want know and/or shape policy around?
7. Make friends. Invite Members and their District Directors to tour your business facilities, ride in your parade, or come to grand openings. Offer the opportunity via email and fax to the Congressman’s scheduler.
- Be prepared not to have a definite answer more than a week ahead of time. Staff often fills in for Members "at the last minute" due to overbooking.
- If you want a greater chance that your Member will attend, schedule the event during the long Congressional recess in August or during a recess week.
During Your Visit
1. Use underground tunnels to avoid going through long security checks more than once.
- Each office building offers unique navigation opportunities. If you can arrive a day prior to your Congressional visits, learn the building layouts in order to provide the most efficient and successful plan.
- All three House office buildings (HOB) are connected by tunnels. Walking inside from Longworth to Cannon is pretty easy, but from Longworth to Rayburn can be a little tricky. Ask someone with a US House ID tag for help.
- Senate buildings Hart and Dirksen are connected on the ground floor. Russell can be reached underground via the Dirksen building.
- Special note: Hart Senate Office Building was apparently inspired by the Hagia Sophia in that the architects didn’t want anybody who didn’t belong there to find their way around. If you have a meeting with a Senator in Hart, best leave plenty of time to find the office prior to your meeting.
2. The meeting: In a perfect situation you will have a maximum of 10 minutes with the Congressman in his/her office. Reality is more like 5 minutes with a 22 year old Legislative Assistant.
- Don’t be offended. Your information will bubble up to the Member at the next staff meeting. Think of it this way, the 2000 Census indicated nearly 650,000 constituents per Congressional district. Let’s approximate 150 days in legislative session and 8 hour work days. If your member saw all of his/her constituents in Washington every year, that would be over 9 people per minute. That’s why you may meet with a staffer.
3. Deliver 3 succinct bullet points – What’s the problem? How would we like it fixed? What is the positive outcome for the Member for taking action? Win-win focus.
4. “Thud appeal” – which is going to have more impact – your visit with a Member or your visit with a Member where you deliver 50 signed letters from your neighbors/coworkers/city leaders belaboring your point?
5. Blackberries (aka “Crackberries”) rule Capitol Hill. It’s a young, high-tech oriented, need news fast environment here. It may be considered rude in your town not to fully concentrate on the person with whom you are conversing. However, expect staff to multitask between their Blackberry and you – they are very generally capable at doing both. Really.
1. Email thank you's and follow ups, don’t bother with written ones. Why? Because several years ago a terrorist sent Anthrax to Members of Congress through the US Mail. Now all mail received by Congress is sent to Toledo, Ohio where it is baked and cut open. You can imagine this takes some time to complete, thus you may already be forgotten by the Member by this time. Email – it goes directly to their Blackberry (see above).
2. Continued follow up is key. Have you used all media possible to make your message known?
1. What are the roles of the Legislative Assistant (LA), Legislative Director (LD), Chief of Staff, Scheduler? For full job descriptions, visit www.congresslink.org/print_basics_staffpositions.htm
2. Committee staff – the generally forgotten gem that must be included in a strategic fly-in plan. Offer yourself to a Committee as a Subject Matter Expert for future testimony. Impress your co-workers when they see you on C-SPAN's (www.cspan.org) coverage of Congressional testimony on television.
3. OpenSecrets.org – Who contributes funds to your Congressman? How much? To whom does your trade association and your board of directors donate?
4. They call them Congressional “Representatives” for a reason: they are plumbers, lawyers, doctors, physicists, NFL quarterbacks, philanderers, socialists, alien communicators, patriots and divorcees. It is important, just like any other sales call, that you know with whom you are dealing and how best to communicate with. This is called “Emotional Intelligence” or “EQ” and you can find more on this topic at www.talentsmart.com/media/uploads/pdfs/The_Business_Case_For_EQ.pdf.
- Align your legislative desires with Representatives who stand for similar issue areas (exp: Have an issue with your Veterans Administration hospital in the Mid-west? Visit Indiana Congressman Steve Buyer, ranking Republican on the House VA Committee (and concurrently Colonel in the Army Reserve))
5. If you are inviting any of the top three Congressional leadership (Speaker of the House, Whips, etc), Democrat and Republican alike, to visit your facility they will provide their own Secret Service detail. Be prepared to have your facility and top leadership vetted prior to the event.
- Otherwise, no need to hire security.
1. Capitol Hill Club (www.capitolhillclub.com) – find more Members of Congress here than you would in their offices. It is a private membership club, steps away from the Cannon House Office Building, that you may consider applying to if you are going to be visiting Washington once a month or more. A membership club in your city may offer reciprocal membership here at “CHC”.
2. Starbucks at 237 Pennsylvania Ave, SE – this is the closest location for Members and Staffers addicted to their coffee. Should you find someone at Starbucks with whom you can advocate your cause, you may enjoy an uninterrupted 5-10 minute “walk and talk” back to his/her office building together.
1. What do the bells and lights mean on the clocks in the Congressional hallways? Suffice it to say that the more the bells and lights start to buzz and blink, the more likely you are to have your meeting with your Congressman cut short by his/her need to vote at the Capitol. Time to wrap up with your “ask” and ensure you have the business card of the staffer who handles your issue.
2. House.gov and Senate.gov have daily and weekly Committee schedules.
- House schedule available at: www.house.gov/House_Calendar
- Senate schedule available at: www.senate.gov/2008_Schedule
3. Thomas.gov – information on all active and past bills (cosponsors, history, vote totals)
4. Does doing a fly-in twice a year make me a lobbyist? No. Lobbyists are people who spend more than 20% of their time advocating for their issues in front of Congress. So, though you may meet with your Member of Congress more frequently than your competitors (that’s a good thing), unless you regularly spend the equivalent of a full work day (8 hours) out of your 40 hour week, you are not a lobbyist by rule of law. However, many CEO’s and trade association executives chose to register as lobbyists with the Senate Office of Public Records (www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/one_item_and_teasers/opr.htm) just to be safe.