Below are recommendations on how to write an effective letter to your congressional delegation (and at the bottom of the blog, a suggestion that you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper).
As we heard on the April 19 live broadcast of TVSet, writing Congress about your stance on fast tracking the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement is critical. TVSet highly recommends stopping the fast track process.
Here are your tips to effective congressional letter writing. Of course a phone call to the office is also always appropriate, but not necessarily as effective.
And to make it that much easier for you to write about TPP, here is Ron Wyden’s contact information.
911 NE 11th Ave., Suite 630
Portland, OR, 97232
tel (503) 326-7525
Washington D.C. office:
221 Dirksen Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C., 20510
tel (202) 224-5244
fax (202) 228-2717
All federal congressional delegates for Oregon can be found here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/members/OR
Now on to letter writing.
How to Write Letters to Congress – Real Letters Are Still the Best Way to Be Heard by Lawmakers (http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/uscongress/a/letterscongress.htm)
By Robert Longley
So, you’re going to write a letter to Congress? Good idea. Make it a good letter.
People who think members of Congress pay little or no attention to constituent mail, are plain wrong. Concise, well thought out personal letters are one of the most effective ways Americans have of influencing law-makers. But, members of Congress get hundreds of letters and emails every day. Whether you choose to use the Postal Service or email, here are some tips that will help your letter to Congress have impact.
It’s usually best to send letters to the representative from your local Congressional District or the senators from your state. Your vote helps elect them — or not — and that fact alone carries a lot of weight. It also helps personalize your letter. Sending the same “cookie-cutter” message to every member of Congress may grab attention but rarely much consideration.
Keep it Simple
Your letter should address a single topic or issue. Typed, one-page letters are best. Many PACs (Political Action Committees) recommend a three-paragraph letter structured like this:
- Say why you are writing and who you are. List your “credentials.” (If you want a response, you must include your name and address, even when using email.)
- Provide more detail. Be factual not emotional. Provide specific rather than general information about how the topic affects you and others. If a certain bill is involved, cite the correct title or number whenever possible.
- Close by requesting the action you want taken: a vote for or against a bill, or change in general policy.
The best letters are courteous, to the point, and include specific supporting examples.
Addressing Members of Congress
To Your Senator:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) Senate Office Building
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
To Your Representative:
The Honorable (full name)
(Room #) (Name) House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The above addresses should be used in email messages, as well as those sent through the Postal Service.
Here are some key things you should always and never do in writing to your elected representatives.
- Be courteous and respectful without “gushing.”
- Clearly and simply state the purpose of your letter. If it’s about a certain bill, identify it correctly. If you need help in finding the number of a bill, use the Thomas Legislative Information System.
- Say who you are. Anonymous letters go nowhere. Even in email, include your correct name, address, phone number and email address. If you don’t include at least your name and address, you will not get a response.
- State any professional credentials or personal experience you may have, especially those pertaining to the subject of your letter.
- Keep your letter short — one page is best.
- Use specific examples or evidence to support your position.
- State what it is you want done or recommend a course of action.
- Thank the member for taking the time to read your letter.
- Use vulgarity, profanity, or threats. The first two are just plain rude and the third one can get you a visit from the Secret Service. Simply stated, don’t let your passion get in the way of making your point,
- Fail to include your name and address, even in email letters.
- Demand a response.
Cite these legislation identifiers when writing to members of Congress:
House Bills: “H.R._____”
House Resolutions: “H.RES._____”
House Joint Resolutions: “H.J.RES._____”
Senate Bills: “S._____”
Senate Resolutions: “S.RES._____”
Senate Joint Resolutions: “S.J.RES._____”
How to Write a Letter to Your United States Senator (http://www.wikihow.com/Write-a-Letter-to-Your-United-States-Senator)
Writing to your senator can help solve issues in your state. It is a good way to get their attention, and can make your voice heard. There are a few steps to getting your voice heard correctly, however.
Write the issue on the envelope. If the letter is about an issue currently in front of the Senate, note the issue or the bill number in the bottom left hand corner of the envelope. The staff will handle mail that is relevant to the current session first.
Be sure to include your name, address and phone number, and email address, so that the senator can respond to you and so that they know they are hearing from someone who lives in their district. Ensure that everything you write, particularly your contact information, is legible.
Start with the correct form of address. The appropriate form of address is: Dear Senator (last name).
Introduce yourself in the first paragraph.
Explain the purpose of the letter in the following paragraph. Share the facts that support the purpose.
Stick to one issue and one issue only when you write. The message comes across more effectively this way. Mentioning too many matters will only confuse the main issue.
Make a request for a reply. Be thankful for the senator’s time and for taking your issue seriously. Even if your politician is not of your political preferences, you must still be thankful as this person is still taking valuable time reading this letter.
Use a business-like tone. However, don’t be afraid to tell your personal story as to why this issue matters to you.
- Avoid the use of slang vocabulary. A professional tone is important for your letter to be taken seriously.
- Try to use persuasive vocabulary.
- Bear in mind that the more hysterical, emotional or paranoid your writing comes across, the less seriously your letter is taken.
Use a computer if you can, for neatness counts. Make sure you keep the letter as brief as possible.
Use standard English and do pay some attention to spelling and grammar, but don’t fret over this. You can have someone capable proof-read the letter for you, if you really want to, but the main thing is to be clear in your idea.
- Senators do not reply personally to mail. Interns and staff assistants normally sort mail by issue, whereupon replies are written by legislative correspondents and more interns. A Senator will never see a standard piece of mail, but due note will be taken of the concerns expressed in the letter, and it will help inform the Senator’s decision making.
- Be wary of affiliating yourself with a specific group (a pressure group, club, union, etc.) in writing a letter; this will diminish the impact of your letter, particularly if the whole of a group is writing. Instead, provide a pithy personal example of a piece of legislation’s impact on your life.
- Do not send form letters or copy the text of another letter. Such letters are almost always ignored.
- Many states have a sharp difference between Senators in terms of responsiveness, etc. If you have a pressing personal issue speak to both, and follow through with whichever staff seems most supportive. Less popular Senators often focus more on constituent services.
- Senators cannot, and will not, address correspondence from non-constituents. Some Senators will reply indicating that; others will forward your letter to the appropriate Senator(s); others will simply ignore your letter. Ensure that you are writing to your own Senators regardless of the issue, even if the matter concerns something that happened in another state.
- Do not get upset if you do not get a reply right away. Remember a senator is usually busy, and receives many letters every day.
- If you are writing about a casework issue you should address the letter to the district office of the Senator closest to your home, and not the Washington DC office. A privacy release form is necessary for a Senator to intercede on your behalf; these can normally be printed online from the Senator’s website, and should be mailed with the description of the casework issue.
- Other countries than the United States have senators too. The basics of this article still apply in terms of the letter writing and things to be aware of.
- If you are writing about your political feelings on an issue, a response may not be necessary and you may or may not get one. Just be satisfied at least that you wrote, and that someone in the Senator’s office has read your comments. If, on the other hand, you need a response on a matter you need immediate personal assistance with, don’t be afraid to make a follow up phone call if you don’t hear from the Senator’s office within a reasonable period of time.
- Referring to your history as a loyal voter/sending tea bags/suggesting that you’ll vote someone out of office/etc. are generally unhelpful.
- Avoid any kind of threatening tone as this will not help your case, and may trigger a visit from Capitol Police or the Secret Service.
How to Write a Sample Letter to a Senator (http://www.ehow.com/how_8560429_write-sample-letter-senator.html)
By Steve Bradley, eHow Contributor
One of the best way to get the attention of your senator, be it of the state or federal variety, is to write a professional letter. All government officials take this kind of correspondence seriously as it represents a voter’s interests. If congressmen do not listen to and respond appropriately to voters’ concerns, they are less likely to receive the electoral support needed for re-election. There are three keys to writing a letter to a senator. Keep it focused. Keep it professional. Give your Senator an action item.
- Write your letter using proper business letter format. Most word processing programs will have letter templates that are quick and easy to use. In general the format is as follows:
Starting in the upper left-hand corner list your name and contact information. Under this put the date followed by the senator’s address. Then write a brief salutation and begin the text of your letter. Finally, write a closing and sign your name at the bottom.
- Introduce yourself and your credentials, if these are appropriate to the issue. State precisely for what reason you are writing to your senator. Keep it factual not emotional. Provide as much specific information as possible detailing how your issue effects both yourself and others. If a particular bill is involved be sure to list it by name and number.
- Present your senator with an action item. Having something concrete that you are looking for will help focus his attention and better the chances of your letter getting the appropriate reply. Ask your senator for a specific response. Thank him for taking the time to read your letter and ask that he either consider voting a certain way or ask that his office get back to you with a particular piece of information.
How to get your senators’ and representatives’ attention on any issue without being a wealthy donor | Protip from a former Senate intern (http://www.reddit.com/r/politics/comments/1os8rz/)
This is an exerpt:
An email to your senator or representative may result in a form letter response and a phone call to the office may amount to a tally mark on an administrative assistant’s notepad. But, for any given policy concern, if you want to get their attention a letter to the editor in one of your state’s 5-10 biggest newspapers that mentions them specifically BY NAME is the way to go. If your message is directed to your representative, pick a newspaper that is popular in your district.