Public Transportation

The Top 10 Things Not to Say to Congressional Staffers

Number 10: But I thought my appointment was with the Senator/Representative

Never indicate you are disappointed to be meeting with a staff person rather than your elected official. Having a good relationship with a staff person can be just as beneficial and can make or break your cause.

Number 9: Here’s some reading material for you – our 300 page annual report

Less is more when it comes to meeting with elected officials and their staff.  Limit your leave-behind materials to just a few pages, that include contact information and a place they can go to for more information such as a website. Offering the information in a file folder with your organization’s name on the label will also help ensure that the materials are filed correctly.

Number 8: How much of a campaign contribution did your boss get to vote against (or for) this bill?

Believe it or not, most staff have no idea who contributed to their boss’ campaigns. Not only is this question inappropriate, but even if it were accurate, it is unlikely the staff person would know.

Number 7: I assume you know all about H.R. 1234

With thousands of bills being introduced during each Congress, no staff person will be able to keep them all straight. Always provide information on the bill title, number, and general provisions when communicating with your Congressional office.

Number 6: No, I don’t have an appointment, but I promise I’ll only take a few minutes of your time

Unless it’s an emergency, or you have a pre-existing relationship the office, try not to engage in the dreaded "stop-by". Most staff are happy to set up a meeting if you coordinate in advance.

Number 5: No, I don’t really need anything specific

Ask for something.  Just stopping in to say hello is not a good use of anyone's time. If you don't provide an item to act on the office is most likely to move on to an issue where there is an action associated with it.

Number 4: We have 10 (or more) people in our group

Congressional offices are tiny. If you have more than five people in your group, you’ll be standing out in the hallway. Plus, having so many people talking at once can dilute the impact of your message. Try to limit your group to no more than five people.

Number 3: What you’re telling me can’t be right. I heard (fill in name) say otherwise

Most staff and members will not lie to you. They may see things differently than you do, but if they say a bill is definitely not going to be considered on the floor, or if there is no such legislation, it is most likely the case.

Number 2: What do you mean we have to stand in the hall?

A request to meet in the hallway is simply an indication of space limitations. Nothing else.

Number 1: No, I don’t represent anyone from your district. I just thought you’d be interested in what I have to say

Members are elected to represent their constituents.  If you are not one of their constituents or your cause does not directly impact the constituents then you are not relevant to them. Your time  and energy is always best spent working with your own elected official and showing them the benefit your cause has on their consituents.

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