Engineer's Guide to Influencing Public Policy

The Phone Call

If there is an issue you are very concerned about or on which there is a pending vote, calling your Senator or Representative may be the most effective and timely way to communicate your concerns. Understand that unless the Senator or Representative knows you personally, you will probably not be connected to the Senator or Representative directly. If your Senator or Representative is not available, ask to speak with the staff person who handles the particular issue that you are calling about.

Some Helpful Tips on Making the Call

  • Keep your call brief and to the point.

  • Identify yourself and the issue about which you are calling.

  • Express your opinion and the reasons you feel the way you do.

  • Be specific about what you wish the Senator or Representative to do.

  • Be courteous and be understanding of legitimate differences of opinion.

  • If you would like a reply, request a written response and provide your name and address. Follow-up your phone call with a letter that reiterates the message of your call and serves as an explanation for any additional material you may provide.

If You're Not Sure of the Phone Number

U.S. CONGRESS All Senators and Representatives of the United States Congress can be reached by dialing the Capital Hill switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and asking for the Senator or Representative of Congress by name.

STATE LEGISLATORS You may usually reach a member of the State Legislature by contacting the switchboard operator at the State Capitol.

LOCAL OFFICIALS Most local officials may be reached through the City Hall switchboard.

AGENCY OFFICIALS Regulators or agency officials are sometimes difficult to reach if you do not have their numbers. Do not be frustrated, however, as most agencies are introducing an operator or locator service, the number for which may be obtained from directory assistance. Don't forget to check the Federal/State/Local Government listings in your local telephone book.

A Note About Faxes

If you would like to fax an item to a congressional office, it is recommended that you call the office first. Many congressional faxes are unlisted so that staff can use the fax without having to compete with a heavy flow of incoming grassroots fax mail. If you explain the purpose of your fax, most offices will tell you their fax number. Here are some tips on proper faxing.

  • Always call first to let the office know to expect your fax and to determine the name of the staff member addressing the issues raised in the fax.

  • Always address your fax to the attention of a specific individual in the congressional office.

  • Use a cover sheet identifying yourself and the intended recipient.

  • Always send a hard copy by mail; mark it as previously faxed material.

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Last Updated:  April 13, 1999

This section was adapted with permission from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers' pamphlet, Communicating Effectively with Government Officials: A Guide for AIChE Members.