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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

A Capital Idea! Successful Strategies for Getting What You Want from Government

Paul W. Schroeder
Vice President, Programs and Policy
American Foundation for the Blind


Barbara Jackson LeMoine
Legislative Assistant
Public Policy Center
American Foundation for the Blind




Part I: The Basics

Why Get Involved with Politics?
What About Lobbying?
The Basics on our Federal Government
The Executive Branch
The White House
Cabinet Departments and Independent Agencies
The Legislative Branch
Brief History and Structure of the United States Congress
Finding My Members of Congress
The Judicial Branch
How State and Local Governments Are Different
State Level Advocacy
Influencing Policy at the State and Local Levels
Information on State and Local Governments
PartII: Gathering Information: The Web of Possibilities

Legislative Information

Using the Web
Information by Telephone
Legislative Program
Other Legislative Resources
Regulatory Information
Print Documents
Want to Be a Washington Insider?

Part III: Get Ready

Getting Connected
Wooing a Legislator
Issue Development
The Political Environment
Developing a Legislative Strategy
Identify the Players
Strengthening Connections
Timing Is Important!
Crafting Your Message
Nurturing Grassroots: Gathering Supporters, Dealing with Opposition
A Few Words About Working in Coalition
Know the Opposition
Master the Media
Are You Ready?

Part IV: Action!

Meetings with Legislators
Before the Meeting
During the Meeting
After the Meeting
The Next Steps

Part V: The End Game

What to Do When Trouble Strikes!
Compromising Positions
Light at the End of the Tunnel
When It's Over

Part VI: Additional Resources

The Legislative Process
National Blindness Organizations
Other Disability Organizations

Appendix I: Lobbying

Appendix II: Sample Talking Points

Appendix III: Master the Media

Appendix IV: The Do's and Don'ts of Advocacy Letter Writing

Appendix V: Personalities


AFB has had the good fortune of employing many fine individuals in our government relations efforts. This manual reflects much of their input. Indeed, those of you who have worked with Scott Marshall will recognize in this material his engaging spirit, deep commitment to advocacy and tremendous energy. He began this project and oversaw its first production when he served as Vice President of Governmental Relations. Many of his ideas, examples, and certainly much of his style remain, because he was so effective at this work. I hope this document conveys some of his ability to assist individuals to organize and advocate effectively.

Many others have also made important contributions. Carl R. Augusto, President and CEO of the American Foundation for the Blind, encouraged AFB's Governmental Relations Group to undertake and continue to update this project. Alan Dinsmore contributed his ideas gained through years of experience as a lobbyist and as a former legislative staff person. Similarly, this manual has the benefit of contributions of ideas from Denise Rozell and Mark Richert, who worked with AFB.

Finally, special tribute goes to members of AFB's Task Force on General and Specialized Services whose commitment to the protection of specialized services for people who are blind or visually impaired inspired this publication.

Thanks to you all!

Copyright 1997, 2003
American Foundation for the Blind
All rights Reserved.

March 2003

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