Jeffrey Birnbaum’s K Street Confidential column in today’s Post looks at the problems involved in sending mass emails to Congress, including the fact that many messages never get through and that staff don’t put much stock in those that do. A study last year by the Congressional Management Foundation has already made this point, and new research by Capitol Advantage (which reader Sonja has helpfully found on their site) reinforces it:
Now we know that these efforts are working well. According to the Capitol Advantage study, six of the 10 leading companies that run Web sites that send e-mails for interest groups failed to deliver even half of those e-mails through their systems.
Of course, Birnbaum reports that other vendors are disputing the results, but it’s clear that emails to Congress on their own have an effect ranging from negligible to none. They can help with an integrated legislative strategy, and they can be more effective when aimed at corporate, agency or state targets, but we’ve pretty much poisoned the well when it comes to Congress. Like so many things in life, the harder something is to do, the more value it’s perceived to have, and emails are just too easy to send.
you can find the Capitol Advantage study here: http://www.capitoladvantage.com/capwiz/delivers/index.html
I would clarify this by saying that form email campaigns have little or no impact on their own. Email campaigns featuring personalized messages to Congress can be very effective in persuading undecided members. And email campaigns coordinated with ad campaigns, earned media, lobby days, phone calls, etc. can often win the day.