March 1st, 2009
A Shailagh Murray/Paul Kane article in Thursday’s Post illuminates a serious problem for advocacy groups: Congress has so much on its plate this year that there’s little room left. With Democrats holding the presidency and running Congress, you’d expect progressive interests to be having a field day, but a combination of the economic crisis and Barack Obama’s ambitious agenda could bury much other legislation in the months and years ahead.
How can environmental groups, trade associations, unions and business groups push their issues above the frenzy? Politicians usually listen to one of two things: money and votes. If you’re flush with cash (and if so, please give me a call), hiring a good lobbyist (or ten) might get you in the door, but what about everyone else? Obama provides the model: build a supporter list and put ‘em to work. Mass identical emails from your people probably won’t help, but other ways of putting technology to work just might. Last Fall, e.politics featured a series of suggestions on how to get people across the country working on your side to influence Congress, and now’s a good time to revisit them. The overall takeaway? The more hoops someone jumps through to make their point, the more likely their elected officials will notice.
Nothing can guarantee that you’ll be able to cut through enough of the clutter to matter, since legislative success is almost always a matter of luck, timing — and preparation. But if you’re not building your list now (and building it in the right districts), you may just be surrendering before the fight even starts.