[nfbwatlk] FW: [nabs-l] Washington Seminar Frustrations

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Sun Feb 1 03:52:58 UTC 2009

Joe is absolutely correct. Cultivating a good relationship with the 
appropriate office staff, known as "Legislative Aides" or L.A.'s in the 
Capitol Hill argot, is of prime importance. AS he says, it is continuing 
contact with the appropriate staff that often gets the job done where 
the rubber meets the road. And there are some representatives we seldom 
see but who sign onto our legislation and I therefore don't worry about 
seeing them directly very much. For example, we've only seen Jim 
McDermott once during the past decade or so. Yet the *one* person from 
the WA congressional delegation that's on our Quiet Cars bill this 
year -- HR-734 -- is none other than Jim McDermott. Same observation 
goes for Norm Dicks although we often see him.

Having agreed with Joe, however, I would add that it is good to meet 
directly at least once every few years with every representative and 
each of the state's two senators, if for no other reason than for them 
to put a personal face on the National Federation of the Blind of 
Washington and to realize that it is not just Jim McCarthy or Jesse 
Hartle, but Ben Prows, Jennifer Moerke, Kris Lawrence, Ivan Weich, etc. 

And seeing a senator or representative doesn't necessarily mean that 
he/he will sign on to our bills. For example, Ben Prows is good friends 
with Rep. Jay Inslee (WA 1) but it would appear that snow is more likely 
to fall in Manila than he is likely to sign onto our Quiet Cars 
legislation because he's written a very pro-environment book and I 
seriously doubt that he gives the credence to our arguments that they 

In this, Noel is to be commended; she is in Rep. McDermott's district 
and aside from his having good sense, she must have made a persuasive 
case during her DC visits.

Actually, I've found it harder to see actual representatives this time 
around; dunno whether the Democrats are partying hardy or what. But 
Senator Cantwell will see us as she usually does and so will Senator 

So we keep on keeping on!

Mike Freeman

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jacob Struiksma" <lawnmower84 at hotmail.com>
To: "'NFB of Washington Talk Mailing List'" <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2009 6:40 PM
Subject: [nfbwatlk] FW: [nabs-l] Washington Seminar Frustrations

-----Original Message-----
From: nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org [mailto:nabs-l-bounces at nfbnet.org] On 
Of Joe Orozco
Sent: Saturday, January 31, 2009 8:54 AM
To: 'National Association of Blind Students mailing list'
Subject: [nabs-l] Washington Seminar Frustrations

Hello all,

I'm sharing an exchange from another list, because the subject of their
frustrations is one I've heard in some form or fashion over the past 
years from fellow students.  The frustrations are understandable, but I
genuinely believe there is a way to work around them.  I began taking my 
advice a few years ago, and making appointments, while never a smooth 
became easier because my contacts knew who I was and began expecting the
infamous call every year come early January.  If anyone else has other
suggestions, please contribute them.  Everyone should feel prepared and
confident to present their case to members of Congress and their 

In the way of an additional piece of advice, to all my soon to be group
leaders, let everyone in your group have a turn at speaking.  People 
come to
DC for a reason.  Every person has a story.  Let them share it. 
can read the facts for themselves in the convenient little folders you 
hand them.  Use the opportunity to talk about why the law is necessary 
you in the course of your daily life.

For the group members, keep it brief.  You have a right to tell your
personal story, but after five minutes of rambling, I assure you, I have 
right to tune you out.  Make every minute count.  Make an impact.

Anyway, I've pasted the e-mail messages in their correct order for your
convenience.  This year will be the first year I do not join you all for
what I am sure will be a productive Washington Seminar.  Whether you 
take my
advice below or not, I hope you guys who are attending make it a good 
and represent us well.

Message 1:

    Hello ***,

    My name is *** and I am the current President of the ***. We 
made connections last year for the purpose of scheduling our annual trip 

    A group of us will be traveling to Washington again this year in 
of  meeting with Congressman *** to present our concerns and seek his
support. I would like to schedule an appointment for Tuesday February 
10. I
have pasted below a summary of the concerns we would like to discuss 
the Congressman, for his convenience and reference.

    Thanks for your prompt attention to this request. I look forward to
hearing from you in the near future and greatly appreciate your time.

Message 2:

Hi ***,

Thank you for your request to meet with Congressman ***. Unfortunately, 
to the Congressman's hectic schedule, he will be unavailable for a 
However, I am cc'ing the appropriate staff member, ***, who can set up a
meeting with you, and brief the Congressman at a later time.  Again, 
you for your request.

Message 3:

Scheduling Request Below is a reply that I just received and thought I 
share it with all of you for your feedback.
As usual,  it comes as no shock to me to hear that he doesn't have the 
nor the desire to meet with any of us for the 3rd year in a row. He 
supported the quiet car legislation either, so can someone, anyone, tell 
who voted *** back into Congress and why they did so?
Is it worth the trouble to meet with his aid and wonder if she even
addresses our concerns with him?
Should we chalk him up as a lost cause?
Should the affiliate compose a letter of concern in regards to his

Message 4:

I know it must be frustrating.  My contribution probably won't help that
feeling, but having lobbied for the NFB for the past eight years, and 
assisted with legislative campaigns for several anti-human trafficking
organizations for the past three, I assure you meeting with a member of
Congress is not everything it's chalked up to be.  Someone once said, 
ignorantly, that an organization should line up meetings with at least 
senators to show just how influential the organization could be.  Yet,
considering Boys Scouts and other such groups meet with public officials
regularly, I'm not entirely sure what criteria they were using to 

Have you ever heard the saying that behind every man stands a good 
Behind every good public official stands a good group of legislative 
With few exceptions, I would prefer to meet with these aides, because it 
they who balance the official's priorities.  It is they who conduct the
research, write dear colleague letters, offer language revisions to 
legislation, things a representative or senator is too busy to figure 
for him or herself.

Now, I'm not saying that meeting with the real deal is not good.  I'm 
saying that the way you make those meetings productive is by finding 
way to the top of their personal concerns by cultivating a strong
relationship with the right aide.  Every time McCarthy and company issue 
of their legislative alerts, be quick to forward that message along with 
personal note of how it was good to see them in February and how this is 
progress report on a piece of legislation they should really consider 
a part of.  I would develop a distribution list in your e-mail client or 
spreadsheet with the right contacts per congressional office and keep 
regularly updated, not only of the legislative progress, but of your own
affiliate's progress.  Invite them to your student functions, your state
conventions.  Tell them about any scholarship opportunities you guys may 
hosting.  In February you should use the opportunity to set the stage. 
rest of the year you spend your time building on that foundation.  I 
many affiliates enjoy Washington Seminar for the opportunity to come
together and celebrate our legislative priorities, but few of them 
effective follow-up operations.

Anyway, I hope this helps on some level.  This year may not turn out to 
the year you meet with the representative, but next year I promise you 
have gotten a lot closer to that opportunity through your efforts at
introducing their office not just to the organization, but to its 


Joe Orozco

"Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity."--James 

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