Scheduling Direct Meetings with Members of Congress on J17
As part of the schedule of events for Occupy Congress on January 17th, some members of the Occupy movement, perhaps including you, will have meetings with their congressional representatives and congressional staff. This is an opportunity to take a message directly to members of Congress without having to deal with the corporate media distortion of what Occupy is about.
These meetings are one of many activities going on during Occupy Congress and we recognize that there is a broad diversity of views about the usefulness and ethics of engaging directly with members of Congress. This step-by-step guide is simply a way to create a space for people who want to take up the option of meeting with their congressional representatives on January 17th.
If you would like to meet with your member(s) of Congress it is best if you request to schedule the meeting. Folks who are doing logistics for Occupy Congress are available to help, but the most powerful tool to help get a meeting is the fact that you are the constituent and the member of Congress theoretically represents you.
It is best to schedule congressional meetings sometime between 9AM and noon on January 17th since that is the time period specifically set aside in the Occupy Congress schedule for direct congressional meetings. The House of Representatives begins its session on January 17th, but the Senate does not reconvene until the following week, so it may be wise to try to meet with your representative rather than your Senators if you plan to meet with only one office.
Many Occupations have approved Declarations through the General Assembly consensus process, like Occupy Wall Street: http://www.nycga.net/resources/declaration/ . Bringing your Declaration to the meeting can be a great way to communicate why your local Occupation has come together. Some Occupiers have even suggested asking your representative to read your declaration into the Congressional Record if they are willing.
If you cannot get a meeting scheduled through the instructions below, as a last resort you can go prepared and walk directly into your congressional office in Washington, D.C.
Step 1: Please click here: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/ to look up your congressional representatives by entering your zipcode or street address. Click on your representative and/or Senator. Their office address, phone number, and additional information will appear.
Step 2: To schedule a meeting with a staffer or member of Congress, it is best to first call the office and explain that you will be visiting Washington, D.C. and want to schedule a meeting. Keep in mind that you may need to provide your postal address that verifies that you are a constituent. Call the DC office number you found at http://www.contactingthecongress.org/ and say,
“Hello, my name is [___________] and I am calling from [your city and state]. As a constituent and member of the Occupy movement, I would like to schedule a time in the morning of January 17th to come in and talk about issues that are important to [your city, county, neighborhood, local community etc]……. Thank you.
Explain that you would like to meet with the Congressperson, but that you would also like to schedule a meeting with a staffer just in case the member of Congress is unavailable. The receptionist will then transfer you to the appropriate staffer or the scheduler. You should ask for the email address(s), A short email is a surprisingly effective way to correspond with Congress. Sometimes, they will refer you to the congressional website to put in a scheduling request.
If you are transferred to a staffers voicemail, simply say the above red text, and add:
You can contact me at 555-555-5555 or [firstname.lastname@example.org] Thank you.
Step 3: Get a confirmation of the meeting time and perhaps who you will meet with. You may get a confirmation of the meeting time while on the phone or the scheduler will call or email you back later. If you do not get confirmation within a few days, sent a followup email. Short emails are received by staffers immediately to their mobile phones. The email address is generally Firstname.Lastname@mail.house.gov. The email should say something very much like the above script. You can also include any links, such as any recent news articles, your local occupy website, or links to relevant information.
Getting a meeting with your representative himself or herself is difficult, especially since you will not be giving much notice in advance. You may end up meeting with a someone on the representative’s staff, but members of Congress rely heavily on their staff to inform them about their constituents’ views.
Step 4: If you get an email, please contact us at
email@example.com and let us know. We can help connect you with other Occupiers in your congressional district and we are working on having a short “training” conference call for folks who will be having meetings.
We are working on creating congressional accountability handouts having information on each representative’s voting record, corporate campaign contributions, and similar information. Check the website for this information soon but information of this sort can be found online at http://www.govtrack.us , http://www.opensecrets.org/ , http://sunlightfoundation.com/ , and http://theyrule.net/
For more information you can download this complete guide.
Petitioning for a Redress of Grievances and Congressional Communication