Contacting a Member of Congress
NAAA urges you to contact your respective Senators’ and Representatives’ offices to solicit their support on issues that are important to the agricultural aviation industry. Meeting with members of Congress and/or congressional staff is a very effective way to convey a message about the issues affecting our industry. A well-written letter or e-mail explaining your position on an issue can also get your message heard.
NAAA has developed brief fact sheets on pertinent issues that are available by clicking here. These issue briefs will help you as you prepare your talking points, and it is also helpful to take a few copies to provide to the legislator and/or staff members you meet with.
The U.S. Congress has endless amounts of information available to you at no cost via the Internet. It’s easier than ever to track legislation and follow voting records. Each member of Congress has his or her own website. You can find your member by visiting www.Congress.org and simply entering your zip code. To reach a congressional office by phone, call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and specify the office you wish to contact.
Below are some suggestions to consider when planning a visit to a congressional office, whether it is in Washington, D.C., or your home district:
Plan Your Visit Carefully: Be clear about what it is you want to achieve. Issue briefs containing pertinent information about some of the issues currently affecting our industry are available on NAAA’s Web site by clicking here. Use these as discussion tools during the meeting and be sure to leave a copy with the office you are visiting.
Meeting a Member of Congress
Make an Appointment: When attempting to meet with a member of Congress, contact the appointment secretary/scheduler in the member’s office. Explain your purpose and who 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. Specify the date and time you would like to meet, and identify all those who will be in attendance with you. If you are going with a group, select one “spokesperson” from that group and agree on your presentation/speech. Again, if you don’t know your member’s phone number, you can call the congressional switchboard, and they will connect you.
Be Prompt and Patient: When it is time to meet with your legislator, be punctual and patient. Due to crowded scheduling, it is not uncommon for a Congressperson to be late or to have your meeting interrupted. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with the member’s staff.
Image is Important: Act, look and dress professionally. The dress code is usually very conservative: a sports coat, dress slacks and tie.
Be Political: Members of Congress want to represent the best interests of their district or state. Wherever possible, demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of your member’s constituency. If possible, describe for the member how you or the National Agricultural Aviation Association can be of assistance to him/her. Where it is appropriate, remember to ask for a commitment.
Be Responsive: 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 and send along any additional information and materials requested. Keep in touch with the member and his/her staff so that they may be contacted on the same issue in the future or on another important issue affecting the agricultural aviation industry.
Senators and Representatives pay attention to their mail. It’s good politics, and responding to your mail is crucial to reelection. A member knows your vote can be won or lost by his or her response. The most effective letter you can write is a personal one, not a form letter. The letter should be concise, informed and polite. Some specific tips:
Writing to a Member of Congress
- Try to send only one typewritten page—two at the most. Don’t write on the back of the page.
- In a short first paragraph, state your purpose. Stick with one subject or issue and support your position with the rest of the letter.
- If a bill is the subject, cite it by name and number. For example, House Bill “H.R. ______” or Senate Bill “S. _______”
- Be factual and support your position with information about how legislation is likely to affect you and others. Avoid emotional and philosophical arguments.
- If you believe legislation is wrong and should be opposed, say so and indicate the likely adverse effects. Suggest a better approach.
- Ask for a legislator’s views, but do not demand support. Remember, Senators and Representatives respond to a variety of views and even if your position is not supportable on the issue or bill, it may be on another.
- Be sure your name and return address are legible.
The suggested address style is:
The Honorable _________________
United States Senate U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20510 Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Senator ______________________ Dear Representative _____________
You can help shape your approach by knowing about the legislator you are contacting. Know his or her committee assignments, interests and background. If you believe you have something in common, or admire a position or statement of the legislator, even on an issue unrelated to the subject of your contact, say so.
Shaping Your Approach
For additional assistance when dealing with members of Congress or their staff, please contact NAAA at (202) 546-5722 or firstname.lastname@example.org.