Getting Your Green Degree: Contacting Representatives

December 20, 2007

Every few months I get word of some bill sifting around the House, Senate, or my local legislature that piques my interest. Most recently it was the energy bill that is raising the average mpg standard to 35 from 25 but isn’t fulfilling its original potential (courtesy of The Sietch). Although I care deeply about these issues, I find it’s difficult to carry that momentum into actually writing or emailing my representative. This is something I think is common in our busy culture, especially within my demographic which is historically less politically active.

So here’s the skinny on letting the people in charge know what you (their boss) want them to do, and how to make it easy.

Step 1- Know your representatives. Assuming you’re from one of the 50 states (and not a territory) you are represented by 2 senators and 1 congressperson at the national level. You should know their names (although even I had to look mine up). Find your congressperson via this official House website. You need your 9-digit zip code. Here’s the Senate version.

Step 2- Know your issue. Be able to address a bill in Congress by it’s name (HR__ or S__) and think about at least one reason why you support/oppose it. You can find the bills from the current Congress here.

Step 3- Write your letter. Keep it brief and to the point. Be respectful to your representative by addressing them appropriately (The Honorable ____ usually works). By simply stating your opinion on the issue and your one or two reasons for that opinion you save both your time and the representative’s. They care what you think, but don’t have time for rambling or venting. If you want to discuss more than one issue, write more than one letter. CongressLink has some great tips for both letter writing and calling.

Step 4- Send your letter. If you’re emailing, push “send.” If you’re going with snail mail, lick and envelope and drop it in the mailbox. Shouldn’t need more instruction than that.

In truth, this can all be done in 15 minutes or less. Really. Don’t stress over the wording of your letter, just make it clear and concise. You’re writing to the office aide, not preparing an inauguration speech. The hard part is actually motivating yourself to do it. So next time something in Congress really riles you up, write them. It’ll take less time than the commercial breaks for Mythbusters.


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