For anyone who believes their representative in Congress only cares about re-election, a new study suggest otherwise. No longer do lammakers just toe the party line.
“Political leadership's power has been diminished in the last decade through a variety of factors, most significantly through earmarks, that used to be the best way party leaders could enforce doctrine and enforce discipline,” says Bradford Fitch, presidnet and CEO of the Congressional Management Foundation.
According to a series of surveys dating back to 2004, 94-percent of staffers acknowledged that in-person visits have the most influence on how a lawmaker will vote.
“If you're affiiliated with a well-known group in your state and you ask for a meeting with a member of Congress in their district office, and you give them time and flexibility on when they can meet with you, there's a really good chance they're going to meet with you,” says Fitch.
Personalized emails and letters also have an impact. Even mass telephone and email campaigns or flooding town halls force lawmakers to stand up and take notice.
Fitch says they may be special interest groups, but they're still United States citizens.
“Citizens get an email, they're asked to send that email to Congress that says increase funding for Alzheimer's research, or overturn this regulation dealing with ponds on farms. That's what most of the citizen engagement is that's happening on Capitol Hill,” he says.