Building Trust & Effectiveness in Congress

citizen engagement

The History of Correspondence to Capitol Hill

Got about a minute? See how communicating with Congress changed over the past 50 years.

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Contrary to Popular Belief, Constituents Trump Lobbyists

Today, CMF and the Partnership released a new survey of congressional staff which reveals that they believe constituents have far more influence on undecided lawmakers than lobbyists. If you listen to the media, the pundits, or the general public, however, you might think lobbyists are at the top of the heap. But our research shows this is not the case.

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Lady Gaga and the Evolution of Constituent Communications

Members of Congress and their staffs have gotten used to a world where a constituent writes a postal letter or e-mail or calls the office and the office responds in written form to the citizen's concerns. One of the challenges that social media creates for congressional offices is that they can no longer just wait for constituent communication to come to them. They now need to monitor external sources to capture it all.

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Advocate to Influence...Not to Annoy

The last few years have seen an explosion in interest in advocacy, and that is generally a good thing. A CMF survey of citizens found that 44% of adult Americans had contacted Congress within the last five years. While this increased interest in exercising constitutional rights has value, one must keep in mind there is such a thing as 'bad advocacy.'

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A “Sham” or Democracy at Work?

Clay Johnson, formerly of the Sunlight Foundation, wrote in his blog last week that "online petitions are a sham." He even used some of our data about congressional mail volumes to help make his point. While I think that he makes some really keen observations and puts his finger on some of the key challenges, not all online advocacy is the same.

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Inside the Hill: How and Why Does Congress Use Twitter

In the third installment of "Inside the Hill", congressional staff discuss the different uses and advantages of Twitter.

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Member’s Constituents Help Question Oil Giants

When I talk to citizens and grassroots advocates, one of the biggest complaints they have is that they feel like they have few avenues to participate in committee processes on the Hill. Congressman John Shimkus (R-IL), however, recently gave his constituents a unique opportunity to participate in a House Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing.

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Communicating with Distressed Constituents

Our friends over at the American Psychological Association recently brought to our attention a publication created by their affiliate, the California Psychological Association, entitled 'A Legislator's Guide: Communicating with Distressed Constituents.' (PDF-418 KB) The document was authored by clinical psychologist Sandra R. Harris, Ph.D. and was originally created and distributed to members of the California State Legislature. The information that it provides, however, translates well to the challenges Members of Congress and congressional staff face at the federal level when assisting constituents with casework requests, taking constituent comments over the phone, or answering constituent letters or emails.

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Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

Website Grades Were Sent to Offices Today

This afternoon, we sent e-mails to Chiefs of Staff and Staff Directors notifying them of their office's website grade in the 111th Congress evaluations. Don't worry — these grades are confidential and are not provided to anyone but the office itself.

Naturally, we've been fielding numerous calls and e-mails from staff all over the Hill. Some are pleasantly surprised by their performance — others not so much.

But no matter where you fall on the grade spectrum, we have some good news for everyone:

  1. There is plenty of time to improve your site before the 112th Congress evaluations.
  2. Anyone, and we mean ANYONE, can win a Mouse Award by following the lead of the best sites.
  3. And, for those offices wanting to know more than their overall score, you can purchase detailed Website Report Cards that provide grades for each of the major categories that sites were evaluated on.

We hope that you receive this information in the spirit it's given. Our mission is to help you communicate more effectively online. Just don't shoot the messenger.

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They’re Baaaack! 111th Congress Gold Mouse Awards Announced

After much eager anticipation and nervous worry from congressional offices, CMF — through its Partnership For A More Perfect Union — today announced the best Web sites on Capitol Hill.

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