Our friends at CQ Roll call have shared an insightful article “Congressional Staffers Reveal All (On how they like to be approached)” with us, and we are excited to share it with you.

As a parent, with the demands of work, family and every day life we know that most of our Climate Mamas and Papas will not have the opportunity to develop long term relationships with congressional staffers. However, our feeling is that this information in this article is really relevant for all contacts we may have with any elected officials and their staff, whether it’s your town mayor, your local congressional office, or your state senator or assembly person. The advice in this article lines up really closely with our ClimateMama Mantra: “Tell the truth, actions speak louder than words, don’t be afraid”.

We hope you enjoy reading this post as much as we did and that you will take away practical suggestions that you can put to use immediately. As we all become more active participants in our democracy, we need to understand more clearly how our government, at all levels, operates. How can we ensure that our voices are being heard, and how we help to heal our democracy as we more actively find ways to help shape our children’s future and now. This advice is non partisan and crosses all political spectrums. Issues like climate change, clean air, clean water and our children’s health must be removed from the “political” sphere where they are being held hostage by hyper-partisanship. These issues are critical to us all, whether we are green, blue, purple, republican, democratic, or independent.

“ Congressional Staffers Reveal All (On how they like to be approached)”
Written by: Ann Dermody

Hint: It’s less lion stalking its prey on the Serengeti, and more competent professional.

Congressional staffers influence, research, craft and write legislation that could have a huge impact on your association, nonprofit or corporation. So, it goes without saying, building a relationship with the right Hill workers for your industry is key. But how do you do it in a way that not only gets you in front of the people you want, but leaves behind the right impression to get your issue moving?

First we asked a bunch of former staffers four pertinent questions.

What’s your:

• Favorite way to be approached
• Pet peeve
• Best (or worst!) memory of an approach
• Best tip

Then we asked several professionals whose job it is to get themselves in front of staffers the same questions.

Here’s what they said:

STEVEN TAYLOR  spent 10 years working for four different Republican senators, including six years as counsel on the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee. He is currently senior vice president and counsel for public policy at United Way Worldwide.

Favorite way to be approached: I always appreciated an advocate who was professional, transparent, and genuine. By that I mean that he or she was upfront, and they represented a point of view, and wanted to make the substantive case for that view. I was always willing to meet with someone who wasn’t trying to pull the wool over my eyes.

Pet peeve: When I was a staffer, I had a one-strike and you’re out rule. If you intentionally misled me, explicitly or implicitly, I would not trust anything you told me ever again.

Worst memory of an approach? I was on a subcommittee that had jurisdiction over some business issues. During a meeting with a lobbyist for a tech company, he acted like he was being a whistleblower, discreetly sliding a piece of paper across the table to me, telling me there was ‘some information’ about one of his business’ competitors that ‘I’d want to know about.’ He reaffirmed the already sleazy impression I had of him.

Best tip for approaching legislators on an issue? I think the two best things you can do when meeting with a Senator or member of Congress is to connect the dots between the issue and the state or district. And be sure your messaging about the issue relates to his or her view of the world.

LESLIE KRIGSTEIN was the legislative correspondent for Rep. Daniel Maffei (D-NY). She is now vice president of congressional affairs at the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives.

Favorite way to be approached: Have integrity and know your issue. A straightforward pitch that included relevance to my boss and the district was always the most successful. Understanding exactly how the issue or policy being discussed relates to the constituents back home was the most important part of any legislative meeting for me.

Pet Peeve: A pet peeve was when folks hadn’t done their homework before a meeting. Knowing my boss’ position, or the composition of the district, was important, and even if folks sought a meeting on an issue we’d likely disagree over, without proper preparedness, it wasn’t beneficial for either party.

Best/worst memory of an approach? The best way to grab a staffer’s attention, or even a member’s attention, is to make it a personal issue. When someone could make the issue relevant to the district, or to me personally, it helped their effort and made it easier for me to relay their interests back to my boss.

Best tip for approaching legislators on an issue? Be reasonable and respectful. There are some times that are better than others to approach members directly.

RODNEY WHITLOCK was healthy policy director for Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and a staff member for the late Congressman Charlie Norwood (R-GA). He is currently vice president of health policy for D.C.-based consulting firm ML Strategies.

Favorite way to be approached: I often used this line: “I know what I know; tell me something I don’t know.” To properly advise members of Congress, staffers need to understand the issues, and how they affect constituents. I always appreciated advocates who helped me better understand the issues and how actions taken by Congress affected their lives.

Pet peeve: Some folks arrive in Washington, D.C. having watched way too much Fox News or MSNBC. They make assumptions about the political beliefs of staff, and walk into meetings spoiling for confrontation. I always considered that an insult to my professionalism, and a missed opportunity for both of us.

Best/worst memory of an approach: A lobbyist walked into a meeting, gave me a rather perfunctory greeting, then opened up a three ring binder to a tab and started reading. After a few minutes, I finally interrupted him and told him that I didn’t handle energy issues. My schedule said he was here to talk about a specific healthcare issue. Without skipping a beat, he flipped to the next tab in his binder and started reading. It wasn’t particularly effective, but I haven’t forgotten it.

Best tip for approaching legislators: As an advocate, you have traveled all this way to speak to a member and their staff. It can’t just be a ‘one and done’ effort. Build a relationship. Let them know you will stay in touch on the issues that matter to you. You really can make a difference.

DAVID THOMPSON worked as a senior counsel and policy director for the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. He is now vice president of public policy at the National Council of Nonprofits.

Favorite way to be approached: I preferred an email introduction with a request to meet in my office, a summary of the issue at hand (in case I wasn’t the right person), and a signal about timeliness. If the matter were urgent – amendment on the Senate floor; heads-up on research, whether positive or damaging – then pick up the phone, text, or stop by. Drop-ins are hit or miss. On a busy day, they are annoying, but on a calm day they may be a great opportunity to sit and meet.

Pet peeve: I bristled at the attitude or presumption from lobbyists that meeting staff on policy issues was a game, or some form of kabuki dance. Too many lobbyists would email, call, drop by, or catch a staffer after a hearing to say they were new to an issue and wanted to take the staffer to fter a hearing to say they were new to an issue and wanted to take the staffer to lunch to get to know each other. That’s too much like a blind date, and not enough about establishing a professional relationship. Staffers exist to be informed, work through issues, and serve their members and the public good. Just set up a meeting and meet. It’s okay not to spend an expense account.

Best/worst memory of an approach? “We don’t know each other, but I want to take you to lunch to explain the concerns we have.” It suggests that the lobbyist has to buy the person’s time, and turns the staffer into an … escort?

Best tip for approaching legislators on an issue? The best way to shape the initial message to a legislator is to ask this question: What would make this legislator care about this issue at this time? Local impact, constituent concerns and outrage, and the policymaker’s ego, are all valid criteria to work into framing the approach.

For more ideas, tips and suggestions, you can read the article in its entirety here. Let us know if you have been able to put any of these ideas to work, and if you have any suggestions to share.

Ann Dermody is the Managing Editor for Marketing at CQ Roll Call, in charge of developing thoughtful and engaging content that serves associations, nonprofits, and the advocacy community.

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We march for women, we march for jobs, for healthcare, for justice, for the climate and we march for science, facts and the truth. Our children are beside us, behind us and in front of us. For so many of us living in the United States in 2017, it often feels like we are living in a “parallel universe.” Every day as we turn on the News, or connect to our friends and family via social media, we are confronted with new body blows; blows to what we hold dear, and near – our values, morals, laws and ethics – and our children’s future and now.

Our ClimateMama community represents parents from across the country – both coasts, the heartland, the Rockies, the south the middle and everywhere in between. We seem invincible, and at the same time vulnerable, understanding clearly that our children’s future and now is in our hands. We also feel the real and aggressive forces trying to take away the hopes we have for our children which are also chipping away at the hopes we have for ourselves.

We have chosen not to be paralyzed and not to accept these negative challenges to our air, our water, our rights, our future and our hope. We are fighting back and we are resisting normalizing what isn’t normal; that is why we march, and why marching matters. Continue reading

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LOOK NO FURTHER – It’s us. While we all have different abilities and degrees of opportunity and power with which to make a difference, we all can and must do what we can. That’s why I’m heading to Washington DC on April 29th, to march for my children and yours – for their future and now; to create hope for a livable world for us all. We can’t rely on someone else to fix what needs fixing. WE must not only be on guard but we must all be working to fix what we see is broken.

We also can’t minimize the urgency with which we must act. Band-aids are not permanent solutions and many of our band-aids are old and falling off. For me, with climate action – I will continue to loudly remind my friends, family, colleagues and elected officials that we need real change, NOW. We must stop pretending that changing light bulbs and recycling will save the future for our children. Small changes do add up, but by themselves they are at best false hopes and at worst they encourage complacency in the absence of others actions – blinding people to the urgency of the crisis in front of us right now.

The science on climate change is clear, as is our role in accelerating it. While it seems that more and more politicians are finally in agreement that climate change is here, our current administration and our President, are raising doubts about our role in causing our climate to change; clearly trying to dampen the urgency with which we must put needed and necessary policies and programs in place. Continue reading

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Recently, a reporter from a major New York City newspaper contacted me. She wanted some comments for an article she is writing. New York media has a huge market with an international reach and being contacted by this newspaper isn’t a “common” thing for me. I decided I would use the opportunity to ask the reporter a lot of questions. At the top of my list was whether she or her colleagues would be reporting on the Peoples Climate Movement, Washington, DC march on April 29th. Her first response was: “Well, there are a lot of marches these days, we can’t cover them all…..”

There ARE so many marches these days, marches for jobs, for tax reform, for healthcare, for immigrant rights, for women’s rights, for science and more – all of these marches are demanding and standing up for the truth; a rarified commodity it…. On April 29th, in Washington DC and around the country we will be marching to demand climate action, something that will determine our success over all the other critical issues of the day. If we aren’t successful in slowing the urgency of the climate crisis, everything else fails, and falls by the wayside.

Think for a moment about how amazing, important and incredible it is, that in the United States we are free to march, to express our opinions and to have our voices heard, even when they don’t necessarily agree with the opinions of those in charge. We need to be on guard, as these rights to express our views and to protest, are in fact being threatened in many states across the country, but that discussion is for another time. Continue reading

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Earth Week, Earth Month, Earth Day…Earth Day is EVERY day. As Climate Mamas and Papas, we know that for you and your family, Earth Day truly is every day. From all of us at ClimateMama, we want to say a special thank you…!

The month of April also is traditionally the time of year when many, many people, companies and organizations look to celebrate our planet – through a wide range of activities, events, programs, art and music.

This year in particular, Earth Day takes on a special and emergent tone. Our planet is reeling; crying out to us that she is sick and needs time and help to heal. At the same time the new Trump administration – which has been populating it seats of power with climate change deniers (EPA – Pruitt, Interior- Zinke, Energy – Perry) – is also raising doubt not only about the reality of climate change, but also about the urgency with which we must all act to protect and heal our planet. We must look to new ways to engaging people who aren’t knowledgeable about climate change; to educate them on the facts, and to explain our options for action. We must use our votes, our voices and our actions to let our elected officials as well as the companies we support, know that we are watching them and expect them to act on climate change. Do let us know if we can help you in your outreach.

Please share with us – via e-mail (info at climatemama dot com), or on our Facebook, Twitter or Instagram pages – Earth day events that you are attending in your community so we can share them with others too. Continue reading

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So, can it be as simple as do three things? Clearly, if healing the world was simple, our planet would certainly be a much healthier place already. But there are things each of us can do, and together we can give our planet a fighting chance to heal.

Our friends at the League of Women Voters (LWV) of New York have laid out a thoughtful, simple and straightforward strategy – Be Earthwise. By following this program, each of us can show our influence and strength, and together we can make our world and us, both safer and healthier.

Be Earthwise shows us how, through our consumer choices, we can directly VOTE with our consumer dollars and take actions to benefit Mother Earth — and ourselves – with respect to the following three topics:

Be meat free
Be chemical free
Reuse/recycle/repurpose
Continue reading

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Screen Shot 2017-02-07 at 4.30.33 PMClimate denial has taken on a whole new level of prominence, as powerful and influential politicians cast doubt on the reality of climate science; including the new President of the United States, down the line to the Secretary of State, and to the potential head of the Environmental Protection Agency (with this list growing it seems, almost daily). How we explain to our children what is happening and what is causing our climate to change has always required careful thought and consideration. Sadly now we must also explain how people in positions of trust are not only bending the truth on climate science, but are out and out lying.

At ClimateMama, our mantra is our guiding light: “Tell the truth, actions speaks louder than words, and don’t be afraid.” We draw hope and inspiration regularly from our friends at Sightline. We are pleased to repost, with permission and in it’s entirety, a Sightline series on Talking to Your Kids about Climate Change. The first introductory post in this series, by Climate Mama extraordinarie, Anna Fahey is below.

Wisdom for Talking to Kids About Climate Change
Tips from scientists, activists, and policy experts
By Anna Fahey

When my daughter was four-and-a-half, she asked me point blank about climate change.

You’d think I’d be equipped for this conversation. After all, this is what I do for a living! For over a decade, I have studied the communications literature and issued dozens of talking points memos on climate challenges and solutions.

But her question left me speechless.

She had cracked open a heavily guarded vault of emotions. Everything I know and fear—and compartmentalize—about the planet’s prognosis, our broken systems, and fossil fuel politics was tied in a knot in my throat.

Think about it: dealing with climate change is about things kids already know well. It’s about cleaning up our messes; about the sun, wind, air, water, and our own bodies.

Nobody wants to frighten their kids. (We know even the most reasonable adults are shut down by fear.) But as the stakes grow more stark and the politics get more divisive, it’s more crucial than ever that we bring the full force of our emotions to this fight and that we raise active, community-minded, and environmentally-aware citizens. And, I believe, talking to our kids is one way to focus all our own difficult and powerful feelings in a way that fuels rather than saps our civic and political engagement. Continue reading

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staywoke2“Stay Woke”

Of the many wonderful, incredible and memorable signs from the Washington, DC Women’s March, that I read, saw, laughed at and cried with, a small minimally decorated sign, “Stay Woke,” sticks in my mind. We must stay “woke,” we must stay alert, and we must stand on guard – to me, this is the clearest and most important thing we can all do, immediately. Our sense of “normalcy” has been assaulted throughout this past presidential election, and we can’t fall into complacency. But we shouldn’t pretend that we haven’t been living this daily assault for many years. The TV shows we watch, the ads we read, the video games that we, and our children play’ all to a certain extent normalize violence, racism and bigotry; as well as what we accept as news and facts – this as opposed to what is actually created as entertainment or PR. Our scale of “normal” has been stretching and broadening, which isn’t necessarily bad or wrong. But, when our democracy is threatened, when free speech, free press and our basic freedoms – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness – are attacked in subtle and not so subtle ways, too many lines are being crossed and we must be hyper vigilant, now more than ever.

We watched on January 20th, as our country held a peaceful transition of power and Donald Trump transcended to the Presidency of the United States. But complacency must stopped as the reality of a government that operates on “alternative facts” and whose first pushes for power are on advancing fossil fuels and taking away regulations that keep our water and air safe. As we face this new future and now together, we must remind our elected officials we are watching them closely – they, if not the president, do still work for and represent us.

IMG_9731For those of us who marched in Washington DC on January 21st, or in over 600 other cities, small and large, around our country and around the world, memories of that day will stay with us forever. “We the People” were all witnesses and participants to a truly historic moment in time; a day when people “woke up,” when we each shared our concerns and our hopes – in our own, unique and powerful ways – and put the world and the new President of the United States on notice. One of the chants that I heard over and over again: “We will not go away, welcome to your FIRST day.” A movement is coalescing, it will be messy, and it will move in fits and starts, but it is here to stay. Continue reading

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womansmarch_flyer_v2_BTNAlongside my mother-in-law, daughter, niece, sister-in-laws, cousins, climate movement family and an expected 500,000 new friends, I will march in Washington, DC on January 21, 2017 at the Women’s March on Washington. I, like many who are coming to Washington, or who will be marching in solidarity in their home cities, will be marching for many varied reasons.

First and foremost I am marching for my son and my daughter. I march for their future and now – a place and space where all human beings are treated equally, where hope can be incubated and can breath and where the urgency of the climate crisis is given the weight and gravity it demands.

Through out the election process, I, like so many, watched in disbelief as women were denigrated, objectified and treated with disdain – all by the incoming President Elect. How was this allowed to transpire – how and why were so many people seemingly frozen in place? I am marching to say I won’t allow this to go any further without push back and action. I am marching with my sisters and for my sisters.

MEPUSSY HAT1I plan to wear my Pink Pussy Hat, and to wear it proudly; I will carry in my heart the many millions of women and men who cannot be in Washington, and I will think of them as I surround myself in a sea of pink – women transcending our nation’s capital. I will think fondly and with thanks, of my conversations with a US women’s rights icon, Bella Abzug. In 1995 I had the honor of spending time with her, as we waited together in a small classroom in a suburb of Beijing, China for an event of the Fourth World Conference on Women to begin. Ms. Abzug shared her thoughts and gave advice freely to me, on the conference we were attending, on her life’s journey, on the importance of work life balance, on how far women have come, and how far we still had to go. As a “soon to be married” young woman, thinking deeply about my life, my work, and the possibility of children to come, this conversation struck home with me, and has stayed fresh and strong in my mind and my heart all these years later. Honest, direct and forthright, Congresswoman Abzug helped me begin to define my path and find and harness my passions. I know that in Washington at the Women’s March there will be many women – myself included – taking time to share our thoughts and our experiences with others who are just beginning their journeys along the road of activism.

According to the Women’s March on Washington website: The March is a women-led movement bringing together people of all genders, ages, races, cultures, political affiliations and backgrounds in our nation’s capital on January 21, 2017, to affirm our shared humanity and pronounce our bold message of resistance and self determination. Continue reading

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Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Over the years, we have found that recycling is a common theme that everyone we talk to – young, old and in between – can relate to and support. From an early age, we teach our children to clean up after they make a mess. Unfortunately, this seems to be a lesson that as adults, we tend to forgot, at least as it relates to the big picture. Not only is it important to look at how we manage our waste in our own homes, we need be conscious of the fact that many critical resources we use are finite and getting scarcer.

Our friends at Rutgers University’s Online Master of Public Administration, have developed a powerful and easily understandable infographic, that helps us see the critical role of a “circular economy” and how we can put these sustainable practices into place. Rutgers compares some of the reuse and recycling practices we employ in the United States along side those that the European Union uses, and we certainly have room for improvement.

So, as you talk to your children about New Year family resolutions, make recycling and reusing in your home, part of the plan. As well, show your children that you will be encouraging your municipality and state update and share their plan too. Find out who manages recycling at your municipality, county or state – call them and write to them. Ask them to look more closely at how to the close the loop and help move us all towards a truly circular economy.

Card

Four Steps to a Circular Economy (at home, work, and world):

1. Decide what you want to achieve and create a roadmap as to how you will get there.
2. Educate and Activate
3. Assess what can be recycled, reused or taken back, and what should be phased out.
4. Engage with others, share experiences and build partnerships.

Thanks Mike and all our friends at Rutgers University’s Online Master of Public Administration for sharing this informative infographic!

Yours,

Climate Mama

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