Where to Lobby
Washington, D.C., Office
: Your first communication to the office of a member of Congress is likely to be directed to the legislative assistant who handles preservation issues. The receptionist may not immediately know who that is, unless your member has consistently been involved with preservation issues.
Legislative assistants are generally scrambling to assemble briefings on short deadlines and not inclined to engage in extensive discussions or policy debates with constituents.
- They want concise, well-organized presentations, including material on how this issue plays out in their member’s district.
- They do not want long position papers that will take huge amounts of time to read and then summarize.
- They are busy and focused on short-term demands, so if your issue is way off in the future, they will be less interested in speaking with you.
- Keep your communications short and to the point, letting them extend the discussion if they become interested.
District Office: Senators may have six or so offices around their state. A congressman in a small district would only have one, in a larger district, two or three.
Staff members who work in the district office are not directly involved in the legislative process, however, they are a valuable lobbying resource. The district office is readily accessible and the staff is familiar with local issues. Usually the district director or another senior advisor is the member’s eyes and ears in the district and provides important feedback on the priority of local issues. The member’s schedule in his home district is usually arranged by these offices as well. Use them often!
Before Contacting Your Legislators
- Look up the pertinent members of the House and Senate to find
out what types of historic resources are in their districts, what type
of interests they have, what committees they sit on, and where they
stand on preservation-related legislation.
- The National Trust, Preservation Action,
and your state/tribal historic preservation office and statewide or
local organizations may have lots of useful data and case studies that
you can learn from and cite in your lobbying efforts.
The most effective and successful lobbyists (both professional and citizen) are those who:
Make a Specific Request: First, why are you
contacting the member in the first place? What, very specifically, do
you want him or her to do? Introduce a bill? Become a cosponsor? Vote in
committee or on the floor in favor of a bill or amendment? Contact
another key member? Any contact with your members should include a clear
statement of the action you would like them to take.
Have Accurate Information: It is important to know
as much as possible about the bills which you are lobbying. Your case
will be improved if you use accurate, factual material to substantiate
your position, and this will be reflected when your representative or
senator makes an informed decision on an issue. You may also want to
provide rebuttals to arguments your opponents are making on the issue.
Aside from contacting various preservation organizations you can get information directly from Capitol Hill this way:
Contact the Washington, D.C., or district office of your Member of
Congress. You can request copies of the press releases or information
sheets the office has prepared about specific legislation or issues, or
ask staffers questions directly. Representatives and senators also
maintain their own web pages (and twitter accounts), and may post the
information you seek.
- Log onto Thomas, the Library of Congress’s on-line legislative resource: thomas.loc.gov.
It offers searchable databases on legislation (including bill
summaries, full texts, and status reports) and on congressional
committees (including their homepages, schedules, and hearings). Thomas
also provides text of the Congressional Record (described below) in
searchable form, and numerous helpful links to the congressional
offices, to government agencies, and to other information sources.
- Search the Congressional Record,
a daily report of action taken by both the House and Senate which can
be accessed on-line through Thomas. You can search for all references to
historic preservation and to any specific legislation you are
following. Floor statements—exact transcripts of the floor debates—are
particularly enlightening. When you write to or meet with your Member of
Congress, you can commend them for any statements in support of
preservation, or set them straight if they have spoken against it.
Use Real-Life, Local Examples: Your letter to
Congress will be stronger if you can connect the legislative issue you
are discussing with examples of how it will benefit historic resources
in your community. For example, name the historic districts and types
of buildings that would benefit from a historic tax credit. Mention
specific restoration projects that were funded using Historic
Preservation Fund grants-in-aid. Explain how cuts in funding would
delay preservation projects or endanger historic resources. Only you
can make it real and relevant for your legislators. They and their
staffs want to know what a piece of legislation will do for their
districts, how it will solve a problem such as vacant housing, create
jobs, or serve as a catalyst for redevelopment. They want to know that
their vote and their support will have tangible consequences and will be
acknowledged back home.