Ask Stacy: How Can I Contact My Congressman?

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In last week’s Ask Stacy column, we had a very long reader question. This week we have one at the other end of the spectrum:

Is there a way to contact our congressman by email, to voice our opinion or protests?
Thanks.
— Sally

I’m glad you asked, Sally! I’d been meaning to bookmark this information for myself anyway.

Below you’ll find information on how to contact your representatives, as well as why you should and how you can more effectively make your voice heard.

How to make your voice heard

Bookmark this site: Contact Elected Officials

It’s a page of USA.gov. There you’ll find links to pretty much anyone you’d care to reach, both in Washington and your state:

I tried a few of these links and found it pretty easy to find the person or agency I was looking for. For example, I clicked on “state legislators,” which took me to a page where I could select my state. From there, I was directed to my state’s (Florida) site for legislators. Providing my address showed me the names of my state senator and state representative, as well as my U.S. representative and my two U.S. senators, along with their phone numbers and a contact form to email them.

The whole process took less than two minutes.

Another helpful link was “Contact your government, by topic.” If you need assistance with a particular issue, anything from food stamps to vaccines, you’re a link or two away from help.

Why you should make your voice heard

There was a time not long ago when contacting your congressman meant taking out the typewriter or pencil and paper, writing a letter, finding a stamp, then mailing an envelope to Washington, D.C. You had to feel pretty strongly about something to go through that kind of hassle.

While the links above are proof that’s no longer true, too many Americans act as if it is. Fact is, contacting President Obama is almost as easy today as sending a text message to one of your friends.

So why don’t more people do it?

I suspect it’s because we feel small and powerless. There are more than 300 million people in the U.S., so one voice doesn’t amount to much.

Then there are the corporations and other deep-pocketed parties using tactics individuals can’t, like super PACs and lobbyists, to influence government decision-makers.

Even if the communication takes only a few seconds, isn’t an individual just whistling in the wind?

Maybe. But if we all whistle together, we can be heard. And getting a few — or a few hundred thousand — people to send emails is a lot easier than getting those same people to pull out typewriters and envelopes.

During my 20-plus years as a consumer advocate, in my opinion there’s never been a time when big money had more influence over our elected officials. But there’s also never been a time when “we the people” were better positioned to do something about it.

In short, because of the ease of making our voices heard, more and more Americans are doing it. Join them.

How to make your voice heard more effectively

Every day I get emails from readers, some disagreeing with an opinion or article we published or video we produced. Those communications fall into two distinct categories: those clearly and calmly stating their case, and those “shouting” by USING ALL CAPS, spewing venom and calling me names.

There’s nothing I enjoy more than informed debate. There’s nothing I enjoy less than ignorant lunatics.

If you’re emailing your elected officials, something is bothering you — and probably bothering you a lot. But if you want your voice heard, keep it both civil and logical.

While it’s tempting to call someone an idiot or suggest they’re on the take, doing so allows them to dismiss you as a nut.

When you write, mention the influence you have in your community and your past support, if appropriate. Then persuade with logic, not venom.

If you were in Congress, which of these two communications would influence your vote?

Dear Mr. Congressman,
I was proud to vote for you in the last election, and used my considerable influence as a local businessman in your district to get as many votes for you as possible.
While I’m still proud of my choice and support, many of my colleagues and I disagree with the position you’ve taken on the subject of _________.
Here are three reasons:

or

Dear Mr. Congressman,
WHAT KIND OF AN IDIOT SUPPORTS _______? No wonder I voted against you and all my friends did too. You should be run out of town on a rail, and next election, you will be, you BUM!

Got a money-related question you’d like answered?

Drop me a line! Just make sure your question will interest other readers. In other words, don’t ask for super-specific advice. And if I don’t get to your question, promise not to hate me. I do my best, but I get a lot more questions than I have time to answer.

Got any words of wisdom you can offer for this week’s topic? Share your suggestions or experiences on our Facebook page.

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