Colin Delany December 29, 2007

CommitteeCaller: Cool Technology, Bad Approach to Lobbying Congress

A couple of weeks ago, a new application showed up on Boing Boing that at first glance would seem to be a reasonable approach to pressuring Our Elected Representatives: give the system your phone number, and CommitteeCaller will connect you with the office of each member of a given Congressional committee sequentially. Of course, you’ll still need to speak with a human being on the other end of each call, but as a Boing Boing reader pointed out in the comments, it’s still dangerously close to being spam — almost as bad as robocalls.

As it is, Congress is deluged with random calls and emails, and they’re generally going to ignore you if you’re not a constituent — it’s long been good email advocacy practice to funnel activists’ messages only to their own representatives for that very reason. And if you want to influence Congress on any significant issue, you’ll almost always need to spend a long time building up to it. Sure, a last-minute constituent communications blitz can sometimes make a difference, but what you need to do most of the time is spend time and energy building support in a representative’s district. Phone-spamming can give people a sense that they’ve helped, but identifying a member’s key constituencies and even individual influential supporters and working to convert or mobilize them is much more likely to get you in the door. Hiring a good lobbyist wouldn’t hurt, either. Unfortunately, there’s a reason that most legislative victories are incremental rather than revolutionary: Congress is a ship that changes course slowly, when it turns at all.

cpd

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