Make your voice heard!
As your representative in Washington, the state house, or your local government, your elected
officials want to hear from you. After all, they are responsible to you and you have the power to
send them packing if they are unresponsive to the needs of their state or district. Constituent
communication can have a real impact as it can sway votes and policy decisions that these leaders
Using the internet, it’s easy to find your elected officials’ contact information. Before you search,
think about the issue you are advocating and which of your representatives would be most
appropriate to contact. Is this a federal, state, or local issue?
To find your representatives’ contact information, you can just do a simple Google or Yahoo
search for their official website. If you are looking for a member of the U.S. Congress, then visit
www.senate.gov (for the Senate) or www.house.gov (for the House of Representatives). On your
elected official’s website, look for a mailing address, phone number, email address, or a contact
form which you can directly fill in on their website. On time sensitive issues, you should consider
sending the letter to the nearest district office since letters to those offices do not take as long to be
Mailing and emailing your legislators:
Your legislators were elected to represent you at their respective levels of government, whether it
be state or federal. If you want them to truly represent you, you need to tell them what you think.
Letter (or email) writing is one of the most common tools for communicating with elected
officials. When writing your legislator, remember to keep it local, keep it personal, and keep it
concise. Here are some letter writing tips:
Tips on Writing an Effective Letter
Your representatives at all levels of government need to know how new and current policies
affect you, your family, or your business. If you are writing a legislator, you can let them know
how proposed legislation will impact you. If you are not able to personally meet, or speak with,
your legislator or other elected official, a letter can effectively deliver your message before he or
she takes a position for or against a particular bill. Here are some important tips:
• As you write, remember to keep it local, keep it personal, and keep it concise.
• Try to keep the letter under one page. If you go on for too long your letter may be ignored.
• If possible, write your letter using letterhead to make the letter seem more professional.
• All legislators are addressed as "The Honorable..." Be respectful. Your opinion is likely to
be ignored if they are drowned out with disrespect.
• When addressing your letter, it is best to have room numbers and you can obtain this
information from the elected official’s website. • Identify the specific bill, or bills, you are writing about at the beginning of the letter, with
the official bill numbers. Do not write about more than one issue per letter.
• Mention your involvement with Americans for Prosperity. This connection will help
reinforce the message that fellow AFP activists may be concurrently delivering on the
• Tell them clearly what action you would like them to take. For example, do you want them
to vote against legislation, or work to modify a specific part of it? Ask for a reply in which
they tell what they’re going to do.
• Be sure to include your return address with zip code. This way, your representative will be
able to verify that you are a constituent and send you a response. Legislators typically do
not respond to correspondence from people outside of their states or districts, so you should
concentrate on contacting your own representatives.
• Keep it personal by using your own words. Don’t copy and paste from a form letter.
• Try to remain polite in your letter and not to seem hostile. Don’t threaten or use offensive
language. Also do not write in ALL CAPS.
• Don’t put off sending your letter. If you’re writing about pending legislation, it isn’t much
use if your letter arrives after the vote. The earlier you are the better because you could get
your message to your representative before they’ve decided what position they will take.
• Assure your representative that you will be following the issue and how they vote.. Once
action is taken, such as a vote, send a follow-up message letting them know how you feel
about their response.
• If you do not receive a response or you find the response you get to be unsatisfactory, don’t
get angry. Simply contact them again and clearly state your message.
If you disagree with your legislator’s position, send a follow-up.
In your follow-up:
• Thank them for the response.
• Express your disagreement, refute your legislator's arguments, and make a new point, if
needed. Also ask them more questions that will force them to explain their position in
greater detail and send you another response.
An Example Letter is displayed here:
Contacting Your Elected Officials (example)
1234 Fake Address Rd.
Nowhere, VA XXXXX
October 10, 2010
The Honorable Mark Warner
459A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Sen. Warner,
I urge you to reject the Reid energy bill and to co-sponsor the Johanns amendment to block capand-trade
from being added in a Lame Duck session.
Cap-and-trade energy taxes are a dangerous policy that threatens American jobs and risks our
fragile economic recovery. These taxes would represent a drastic change in the nation's energy
policy and should not be slipped through Congress during the Lame Duck session.
Senator Reid has removed the cap-and-trade taxes from his energy bill because he knows he
could never get the 60 needed votes in the light of day. The American people will simply not
support this policy.
Instead, Reid plans to add these taxes after the election, when senators - many of whom may
have lost their reelections or will be retiring - will be insulated from the voters. This strategy is
undemocratic and must be blocked.
Senator Johanns' cap-and-trade amendment (currently No. 4527) will block this strategy by
establishing a point of order against adding cap-and-trade to any House vehicle or conference
report, unless the Senate has approved it first.
I urge you to reject the Reid energy bill and to co-sponsor the Johanns cap-and-trade amendment.
Telephone calls are a great way to quickly send a message to your elected officials on current
issues. In some cases, there is also a possibility that you will be able to speak directly to your
representatives, such as when calling local officials. When calling the federal government,
however, do not expect to talk directly to your member of Congress. You can request to speak
with legislative staff or simply register your opinion with the staffer answering the phone.
When calling, follow the same tips as for a letter. Research the issue before you call. Be polite,
brief and to the point. Don’t ramble on or move the discussion to unrelated topics. Phone calls
are the best way to quickly get your message across, but you should also send a follow-up letter
after your call, especially if you speak directly with legislative staff or your elected official.
Face-to-face communication (visiting your elected official’s office) is the most effective
method of getting your message to your elected officials. In some cases, you can try to meet
with your elected officials directly. If this isn’t possible, don’t be disappointed to be meeting
with a staffer, since staff members are responsible for much of the work done in the policy
world and your meeting could be just as effective as one with an elected official. Your
federal officials also have local offices in addition to their offices in Washington, D.C., so
feel free to visit those offices as well.
• Call for an appointment – Elected officials and their staffers work on schedules which can
fill up quickly, so call at least a week in advance to make an appointment. If meeting with a
staffer, make sure that they handle the issue that you wish to discuss.
• Time is valuable – Arrive on time and expect to leave when your appointment time is
concluded. Call ahead a day before to confirm the appointment.
• Be organized – Research the topic you wish to discuss and be knowledgeable about all sides
of the issue. You want to present your viewpoint, identify other positions, and the case as to
why yours is the right side. It is important to be honest and not to misrepresent the facts.
Personal anecdotes are extremely effective in showing why this issue is important to their
• Be a good listener – Listen and respond to their comments and questions.
• Ask for a commitment – Ask them to take a specific action, such as creating new legislation
or supporting a pending bill. If meeting with a legislator, research what committees they sit
on so you are aware of what issues they typically work on. If they usually work on the issue
of your concern, then they will be able to take a wider range of actions for you.
• Leave a one-page fact sheet – This summarizes the issue and your position for the elected
official or staffer. Bullet-points can be a clear and effective format. Do not exceed one page if
you want it to be read.
• Send a thank you note – Send a follow-up letter that thanks the official or staffer for the
meeting and restates your message. This will make your meeting more memorable and can
make it easier to schedule more meetings in the future.
Testifying Before a Board or Committee:
When you testify before a board, you are trying to convince them to do something or not do
something. You may sometimes think that the board members are hopeless and will never adopt
your position or idea. Occasionally this is true, but you might be surprised to know how often it
isn't. No office holder wants to be seen supporting a position that regular people can show
will cause harm to their lives. If done correctly, public testimony can be one of the most
powerful tools a grassroots volunteer can use to move public policy toward limited government.
Here are five important rules to remember when giving testimony to a board or committee:
1. Be courteous and follow standard etiquette. Remember that when you testify, you are
always addressing the chair or president of the board, even if another board member asks
you a question. Always thank the board or committee for their time, and never go over
your allotted time. Most importantly: Always be polite and professional, even if you are
angry or a board member disrespects you.
2. Tell the board or committee who you are. In addition to your name, tell them where
you live, what you do for a living, and who you represent if you are representing a group.
If you are testifying on an AFP issue like taxes or property rights, tell them you are a
member of Americans for Prosperity.
3. Tell them why you are there. After you have told the board or committee who you are,
explain why you are there and what compelled you to offer testimony. For example, “I
have come to oppose House Bill 9998 which will create large-scale taxes on property in
4. Tell your personal story. Few things in politics have the impact that a personal story
does. Tell the board why the issue you’ve brought to their attention impacts you. The
point here is to attach a human face and a human story to bring emotional and intellectual
impact to your position. Try to find a central principle like “freedom” or “choice” and
tell your story around it.
5. Tell them what you want them to do. As you conclude your remarks, be sure to tell the
board or committee exactly what it is you want them to do. You can say something like,
“For these reasons, I strongly urge you to vote FOR Ordinance 32-3 and help preserve
jobs in our community.”
Writing Letters to the Editor and Opinion Editorials:
Letters to the editor are an extremely important tool in the grassroots activist’s belt. They allow activists
to comment and respond to articles in local and national newspapers. While they may seem trivial, many
important legislators and policymakers keep an eye on letters to the editor so that they know what the
public is thinking about a particular issue. When writing a letter to the editor, be sure to keep the
following tips in mind:
• ALWAYS check with the newspaper or publication before writing the letter. Each publication
will have different guidelines for the writing and submission of letters to the editor.
• A letter to the editor should be short, concise, and to the point. It should not exceed one page
(roughly 250 words). Newspapers rarely print letters that exceed even 150 words, so try to keep
it around that threshold.
• Be truthful and make sure your facts are correct. A newspaper will not print a letter if there is
misinformation contained in the letter.
• Keep it relevant. Write about an issue or article that was recently reported on in the paper to
which you are submitting your letter.
• Be sure to include your contact information (name, address, and phone number). Many
newspapers will not print an anonymous letter to the editor, and may call to verify that you did, in
fact, write the letter.
• Remember, your letter may not be published, but it was not ignored. Some publications, the
national ones in particular, receive a great many letters and cannot print them all. The editors and
staff do read all the letters that come in, so keep trying!
An opinion editorial is similar to a letter to the editor in that it is printed on the editorial page, but differs
in some key ways. An op-ed is generally longer than a letter to the editor, and provides more in-depth
analysis and commentary on a particular policy alternative or article. When attempting to write an op-ed,
you should follow many of the same guidelines as for a letter to the editor. Be concise, honest, and
relevant. Be sure that your facts are correct, and be sure to include your contact information so that the
paper can get in touch with you. Here are some additional tips for writing an op-ed:
• As with a letter to the editor, always check with the publication to obtain the guidelines for op-ed
writing and submission.
• Try not to exceed 700 words. The general rule is the shorter, the better, but be sure that you are
adequately communicating your message.
• Do not try to make more than one point. Make ONE point and make it well. Do not stray from
your main argument. Also make sure that you place your most important point at the top of the
article. Readers may only read your first few sentences before moving on, so make sure they read
the most important thing you have to say.
• Statistics are good and can bolster your argument, but do not let your overall message get bogged
down in a fog of numbers.
Submission of Letters to the Editor:
- Letters should be addressed to the newspaper and must be unique to that newspaper. No open letters.
- When emailing, do not attach a document. Your letter should be in the body of the email.
- Include your home address and business/cell phone number so that you may be contacted by the
- Letters are subject to abridgement.
- If mailing or faxing a physical letter, be sure to sign it.
Letters to the Editor
The Washington Post
1150 15th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20071
Less than 200 words.
New York Times:
Letters to the Editor
150 words max.
Wall Street Journal:
300 word limit.
Viewpoints, C/O Houston Chronicle
P.O. Box 4260
Houston, TX 77210
250 word limit
Dallas Morning News:
http://tinyurl.com/25uysug (online form)
200 words max.
Los Angeles Times:
http://tinyurl.com/2en8kh7 (online form)
150 words or less
150 words max
The Miami Herald
1 Herald Plaza
Miami, FL 33132
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018
3600 New York Ave NE
Washington DC 20002
400 words max
Voice of the People
435 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL, 60611
400 word limit
http://tinyurl.com/hjhyr (online form)
200 words max.
San Francisco Chronicle:
200 words or less
200 words max
PO Box 70
Seattle, WA 98111
The Denver Post
150 word limit
101 W. Colfax Ave
Denver, Colorado, 80202
Detroit Free Press:
Editor, Detroit Free Press
600 W. Fort
Detroit, MI 48226
150 words or less
How To Write An Editorial:
Opinion Editorial (example)
Stop EPA's regulatory assault
By Phil Kerpen And Mark Block
Posted: June 3, 2010
The Environmental Protection Agency is intent on shoehorning vast, costly global warming
regulations into the 1970 Clean Air Act. Congress has been content to look the other way and
allow it to happen, but on June 10, every senator will be on the record. That's when the Senate
will vote on a resolution, S.J. Res. 26, introduced by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), that
would overturn the EPA's global warming regulations.
It's privileged and not subject to filibuster. There is no place for weak-kneed senators to hide. In
a week, we'll know where every member of the Senate stands, including Wisconsin's Russ
The EPA is out to regulate cars, trucks, buses, motorcycles, planes, trains, ships, boats, tractors,
mining equipment, RVs, lawn mowers, forklifts and just about everything else with a motor. And
because there is no control technology for greenhouse gases, the EPA would require complete
redesigns and operational changes. It also would regulate stationary sources, which could include
commercial kitchens that use natural gas and eventually even large, single-family homes.
Democrats have a huge majority in the Senate, but many Democrats will not walk the party line
on this one. To start, three Democrats are co-sponsors of Murkowski's resolution: Arkansas'
Blanche Lincoln, Nebraska's Ben Nelson and Louisiana's Mary Landrieu.
And at least one more key Democrat, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, has expressed concerns
about what the EPA is doing. He said in a news release: "We cannot wait any longer to send the
message that relying on EPA is the wrong way to go. The fate of our entire economy, our
manufacturing industries and our workers should not be in the hands of EPA."
The stakes in Wisconsin are huge, and some officials have raised concerns. Department of
Natural Resources Secretary Matt Frank, according to comments he sent to the EPA , "believes
that EPA has greatly underestimated the number of PSD permitting actions the regulation of
(greenhouse gas) will cause." He said many of Wisconsin's 3,000 schools, 83 hospitals and 42
paper and pulp manufacturers could be subject to permitting. Frank also said the process "will
further overwhelm state permitting resources, diverting them from other permit actions that may
have a greater environmental benefit."
Regardless of the outcome of next week's vote, we'll learn where Sen. Feingold stands. Will he
vote to say a rogue agency can shortcircuit the legitimate legislative process, disregard public
opinion and impose its own constraints on the Wisconsin economy? Or will he take
responsibility as a member of the legitimately elected legislative branch of government and rein
in the EPA by voting yes on S.J. Res. 26?
Calling into Radio Talk Shows
Each day, millions of people tune in to talk radio at home or during their commutes to and from
work. You can bring your message to thousands if you call into these shows. Here are some tips
for calling in:
• Write down what you want to say before you call in. Decide what point you want to
make and what you want to talk about, and then write it in a conversational tone. That
way, you have a script for your call.
• Every radio show has a call screener that will want to know who you are and what you
want to talk about. Have a one line answer prepared about your topic such as, “I want to
talk about the cap-and-trade bill and energy prices.”
• You are more likely to get on the air on local or regional talk shows than on national
ones, so try there first.
• You CAN get on national talk radio, but you are most likely to get through:
1. When there is a guest host.
2. At the top and bottom of the hour (when many callers give up and hang up).
3. When there is a caller on the line (a line opens up when they hang up).
Here is the call-in information for several of the major national talk radio shows (all times are Eastern):
National talk shows:
Sean Hannity 3-6:00 PM -Live 800-941-7326 Fax: 212-301-4222
Sean Hannity 4-7:00 PM 800-941-7326
Rush Limbaugh 12-3:00 PM 800-282-2882 Fax: 212-563-9166
Glenn Beck 9-Noon 888-727-2325
Mark Levin 7-9:00 PM (6-8PM live) 877-381-3811
Bill Bennett 6-9:00 AM 866-680-6464
Michael Medved 3-6:00 PM 800-955-1776
Laura Ingraham 9-Noon 800-743-4443
Dennis Miller 4 – 7 PM (live-10-noon) 866-993-3664
Lou Dobbs 7-10:00 PM (2-3PM live) 877-553-6227