It is often difficult to get a meeting with Members of Congress. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t meet with your member directly. Instead, request that your meeting be scheduled with the staff member who handles energy issues. A typical meeting lasts 20-30 minutes. Here are four easy steps to scheduling meetings on Capitol Hill.
Get contact information: Find contact information for your Members of Congress at www.senate.gov and www.house.gov.
Email a request: Email a meeting request to each of your senators and your representatives, to the attention of the scheduler. As in the sample meeting request provided, include the date and the purpose of the visit. If you live in the district or state, it’s important to note that you are a constituent.
Check in again: Members of Congress and their staff receive many meeting requests. If you haven’t heard back after a week, follow up with a phone call to the scheduler. If your request continues to go unanswered, call and ask for the staff member that handles energy issues. You may then be asked to repeat the process of emailing in a request.
Send us your appointments: Once you set up your meetings with your congressional delegation, please send the Association the time and location of your appointments so we can keep a master schedule.
Making Your Visits Effective
Do your homework: Get up to speed on an issue area by reading our Issue Briefs. Research the Member of Congress that you are meeting with. Know their voting record, what committees they are on, and if those committees have jurisdiction over your issues.
Bring your issue home: Be prepared to illustrate how a policy decision in D.C. will affect your customers, eg. “If tax-exempt financing is limited, electricity bills will increase by X amount.”
Be relevant: Focus discussion on issues that are relevant to your utility. For example, if your utility is in the Northeast and does not get any power from the Power Marketing Administrations, there is no need to mention the “Chu Memo.”
Keep the discussion simple: You can provide more detail on paper. If you don’t know an answer to a question, just say “I’ll have Association staff follow-up with you” and let us know. Personal office staff just want to know how the issue will affect their constituents. Committee staff might need more detail and get into technicalities.
Individualize your pitch to each office: Highlight the argument for or against an issue that will resonate the most. Take tax-exempt financing — in a Democratic office, you might highlight the fact that 75% of infrastructure in the United States is financed through tax-exempt bonds issued by state and local governments; in a Republican office, stress that allowing the federal government to tax state and local bonds would violate the principle of federalism and interfere with local decision-making.
Be concise and specific: Members of Congress and their staff are incredibly busy. They value meetings that are brief and specific. Don’t say, “I want you do something about energy policy.” Do say, “I would like you to support H.R. 123 that will decrease the regulatory burden on my utility.” If you don’t have a specific ask, make your visit very brief and say “We wanted to introduce ourselves and our utility to you. We provide power to X number of people in your district. The issues we are most concerned about are XYZ.”
Always follow-up: Legislators and their aides handle many issue areas. It is easy for your issue to get lost. Politely thank them for their time and offer yourself as a resource of information when they have questions on a particular issue area. You may also want to invite them to visit your projects the next time they are back home.