Government Relations - Elected Official Outreach
Elected Official Outreach
Communicating with Congress
Tips for Emailing Congress
Heightened security measures have dramatically increased the time it takes for a letter sent by post to reach a congressional office. More and more, citizens are using emails to communicate their concerns and increasingly elected officials’ offices prefer electronic communications for constituent contact. As a general rule, Members of Congress are far more likely to heed your message if you are one of their constituents.
Purpose of your email:
- State your purpose for writing in the first sentence of the email
- If your email pertains to a specific piece of legislation, identify it. And make sure that you are referencing the correct legislation to the correct body of Congress. House bills are H.R. ___. Senate bills are designated as S.____.
- Be courteous
- If appropriate, include personal information about why the issue matters to you
- Address only one issue in each email
Addressing Your Correspondence:
To a Senator
The Honorable (Full Name)
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Senator (Last Name):
To a Representative
The Honorable (Full Name)
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Mr. /Mrs./Ms. (Last Name):
Note: When writing to the Chair of a Committee or the Speaker of the House, it is proper to address him/her as:
Dear Mr. Chairman or Madam Chairwoman:
Dear Mr. Speaker or Madam Speaker:
Tips for Phoning Congress
Telephone calls are usually taken by a staff member. Ask to speak with the aide who handles the issue about which you wish to comment.
After identifying yourself as a constituent, tell the aide you would like to leave a brief message, such as: “Please tell Senator/Representative (Name) that I support/oppose (S.___/H.R.____).”
State your reasons for your support or opposition to the bill. Ask for your senators’ or representatives’ position on the bill. You may also request a written response to your telephone call.
Suggestions for a Personal Visit
Meeting with a Member of Congress, or congressional staff, is a very effective way to convey a message about a specific issue or legislative matter. Below are some suggestions to consider when planning a visit to a congressional office.
Plan Your Visit Carefully
Be clear about what it is you want to achieve—typically our focus during legislative visits in February is our appropriation. It is critical each wing follows annual guidance from CAP Government Affairs by attending the briefing in DC eachevening before our Legislative Day. Determine in advance which committee staff you need to meet with to achieve our goals. Typically CAP members meet with the Member of Congress and/or the Military Legislative Assistant.
Make An Appointment
When attempting to meet with a Member, contact the Appointment Secretary/Scheduler. Explain your purpose and whom you represent. It is easier for congressional staff to arrange a meeting if they know what you wish to discuss and your relationship to the area or interests represented by the Member.
Be Prompt and Patient
When it is time to meet with a Member, be punctual and be patient. It is not uncommon for a Member of Congress to be late, or to have a meeting interrupted due to the Member’s crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with a Member’s staff.
Whenever possible, bring to the meeting information and materials given to you during theevening briefing with Civil Air Patrol National Staff. Members are required to take positions on many different issues. In some instances, a Member may lack important details about the pros and cons of a particular matter. It is therefore helpful to share with the Member information and examples that demonstrate clearly the impact or benefits associated with a particular or piece of legislation. Whenever possible, include cadets in meetings with the Member of Congress and/or their staff.
Be Political, Not Partisan
Members of Congress want to represent the best interests of their district or state. Whenever possible, demonstrate the connection between Civil Air Patrol and the interests of the Member’s constituency. If possible, describe for the Member how CAP can be of assistance to him/her in relation to our missions and operations. When it is appropriate, remember to ask for a commitment from the Member.
Be prepared to answer questions or provide additional information in the event the Member expresses interest or asks questions. Follow up the meeting with a thank you letter that outlines the different points covered during the meeting. Should the Member of Congress request specific information and/or a follow up visit please inform the CAP National Government Affairs Staff subsequent to your visit.
Congressional Staff Roles
Each Member of Congress has staff to assist him/her during a term in office. To be most effective in communicating with Congress it is helpful to know the titles and principal functions of key staff.
Commonly used titles and job functions:
Administrative Assistant (AA) or Chief of Staff (CoS): The AA reports directly to the Member of Congress. He/she usually has overall responsibility for evaluation the political outcomes of various legislative proposals and constituent requests. The AA is usually the person in charge of overall office operations, including the assignment or work and the supervision of key staff.
Legislative Director (LD), Senior Legislative Assistance (SrLA), or Legislative Counsel (LC): The L is usually the staff person who monitors the legislative schedule and makes recommendations regarding the pros and cons of particular issues. In some congressional offices there are several Las and responsibilities are assigned to staff with particular expertise in specific areas. For example, depending on the responsibilities and interests of the Member, an office may include a different LA for health issues, environmental matters, taxes, etc.
Press Secretary (Press) or Communications Director (CD): The Press Secretary’s responsibility is to build and maintain open and effective lines of communication between the Member, his/her constituency, and the general public. The Press Secretary is expected to know the benefits, demands, and special requirements of both print and electronic media, and how to most effectively promote the Member’s views or position on specific issues.
Appointment Secretary (Appt), Personal Secretary, or Scheduler (Sch): The Appointment Secretary is usually responsible for allocating a Member’s time among the many demands that arise from congressional responsibilities, staff requirements and constituent requests. The Appointment Secretary may also be responsible for making necessary travel arrangements, arranging speaking dates, visits to the district, etc.
Caseworker: The Caseworker is the staff member usually assigned to help with constituent requests by preparing replies for the Member’s signature. The Caseworker’s responsibilities may also include helping resolve problems constituents present in relation to federal agencies, e.g. Social Security and Medicare issues, veterans benefits, etc. There are often several Caseworkers in a congressional office.
Other Staff Titles:
Other titles used in a congressional office may include Executive Assistant, Legislative Correspondent, Executive Secretary, Office Manager and Receptionist.