Saturday, August 22, 2009

Guidelines for Calls to Government Officials ~ Friends of Peltier

Guidelines for Calls to Government Officials ~ Friends of Peltier
Call Legislators

Telephone Guidelines

A quick and effective way of letting members of Congress know your position on the Peltier case is a phone call. When legislators get several phone calls from constituents on issues or legislation, they begin to pay more attention.

Consult this phone listing (PDF format, current as of July 7, 2009) for members of the U.S. Senate. Use District of Columbia area code 202 and the 22 prefix followed by the number listed for the senator you wish to reach.

You may locate the telephone numbers for your member of the U.S. House of Representatives here (PDF format). This listing is current as of July 7, 2009. Use District of Columbia area code 202 and the 22 prefix followed by the number listed for the representative you wish to reach. (This listing also is available in HTML.)

We encourage you to contact your legislators at both their local offices and their offices in Washington, DC.

When making a phone call to the office of your member of Congress, be sure to include the following information:

  • Who you are. Let the legislator's office know that you are a constituent, and you may wish to talk a little bit about your credentials where appropriate.

  • The issue and your position on it. Whether you're calling a member of Congress about Peltier's parole, clemency, release of government documents on the case, or the need for congressional hearings be sure to give your position on the issue. Be clear and concise.

  • How to contact you. Remember to leave your address and telephone number so that you can receive a response from your member of Congress.

Note: The same guidelines apply when calling the White House to urge the President to grant a commutation of Peltier's sentence. The following telephone numbers may be of used for this purpose: 202-456-1111 (Comments); and 202-456-1414 (Switchboard).

Next Steps

You may want to follow your phone call with a letter. A constituent's letter can be very powerful and personal letters show that you really care about the issue.

Generally, writing in a professional capacity related to your employment (if applicable) lends credibility.

Handwritten letters can be as persuasive as typed letters, remember. A handwritten letter gives the appearance of a grassroots "ordinary citizen" communication, rather than a communication from a "special interest group." Be sure, however, to write legibly.

Fax or e-mail the letter. Postal mail to the U.S. Congress has slowed down considerably after increased security. You can still mail a letter, but need more lead time for delivery.

To make your letter effective:

  • Find your Congressional District and contact information.

  • Keep your letter short. Be concise and limit your letter to one or two pages.

  • Use the appropriate address and salutation. Use the correct title, address, and salutation, and remember to use spell check after completing your letter.

For Representative:


The Honorable John Q. Smith
U.S. House of Representatives
111 Address
Washington , DC 20010


Dear Representative Smith:

For Senator:


The Honorable John Q. Smith
U.S. Senate
111 Address
Washington, DC 20010

Dear Senator Smith:

  • Identify yourself. Let your legislator know that you are a constituent.

  • Be polite. Like most of us, legislators will respond better to positive communication. Start by recognizing their support on specific pieces of legislation.

  • Explain your position. Be clear and concise with regard to your position on the issue you address in your letter.

  • Ask for a response. Be clear about what you would like your legislator to do and request a reply to your letter.

You also may wish to write to the White House to request that the President award a grant of Executive Clemency to Peltier.

President Barack Obama

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC  20500

Phone Numbers:

Comments - 202-456-1111

Switchboard - 202-456-1414

Fax - 202-456-2461


Meeting with Your Member of Congress

If feasible, you may want to request a meeting with your member of Congress:

  • Find your Congressional District and contact information.

  • Send a fax or e-mail to the scheduler requesting a meeting:

    • Include the date and time of day you will be available to meet with the member, but be flexible about scheduling your visit because members of Congress have busy calendars

    • Offer to meet with a staff member if the member of Congress is not available (i.e., a Legislative Assistant)

    • Include the issue you would like to discuss (Freedom of Information Act reform, for example)

    • Provide a phone number and/or e-mail address where the scheduler can reach you.

  • Follow up with a phone call in one week's time if you have not heard back from the congressional office.

  • When the meeting is scheduled, find accurate information as to the physical location for your legislator's office.

  • Be on time for the meeting. Staff in most Capitol Hill and district offices are busy and work on tight schedules. Remember that their time is valuable.

  • Establish a rapport. After introductions and handshakes, talk about things or relationships you might have in common. A little bit of research can pay off, so find out all you can about your members of Congress. For instance, maybe you have a mutual friend, or perhaps you both went to the same elementary school. Thank your senator or representative for all that he or she does on Capitol Hill to represent your state or district.

  • If several people will attend the meeting, select a spokesperson. If everyone there will have a role, select one person to move the meeting along in a timely manner.

  • State your purpose. For example, you might say, "Congressman Lee, we are here to talk with you about hearings on the long-term effects of COINTELPRO. Specifically, we would like to have your support for hearings on the 'Reign of Terror' on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the early 1970s."

  • Make the issue real. Legislators are people; they are sympathetic to stories about real people. For example, humanize Leonard Peltier by telling the member a little bit about Peltier, the man. If not speaking from personal experience, personalize the events on the Pine Ridge Reservation during the 1970s by sharing published stories.  Offer the member a copy of "Incident at Oglala" for viewing or a copy of Peter Matthiessen's book, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse.

  • Paint the little picture, but also the big picture. After you discuss how the issue has affected you, talk about the millions of Peltier supporters worldwide. Include names of congresspersons who currently support or have supported Leonard Peltier in the past, as well as mentioning specific celebrities, dignitaries, and luminaries who also support Peltier. You should also mention the legislative bodies around the world who have passed resolutions in support of Peltier (e.g., the European Parliament, Belgium Parliament, and more).

  • Make a clear request. Tell your member of Congress exactly what you would like him or her to do, and do not leave without learning the legislator's position on your issue. For example, you might say that you would like your legislator to sign a letter in support of Peltier's parole. Then, ask the member or their staff to outline the legislator's current position.

  • Very soon after the meeting, write a thank you letter to your member for taking the time to visit with you. 

It's common for some congressional members to view the Peltier case as history and unimportant to today's world. Don't be dissuaded by this. Instead, use some creativity to make the Peltier case current and important in light of the issues of the day, as well as the political landscape in Washington, DC. Monitor congressional actions, debates, proposed Bills, etc. Pay attention to current events. Use the opportunities presented to you to couch your comments and concerns about the Peltier case in such a way that they compliment your member's legislative priorities. You can identify those priorities by visiting your representative's or senators' Web pages. (Links to such sites are included in the output provided by the above House and Senate directories.)

A political party's legislative agenda can change quickly. Your concerns may become forgotten in the fray. Therefore, a congressional contactwhether by phone, letter, and/or face-to-faceshould be approached as an ongoing endeavor. Send follow up letters, place additional calls, and plan more congressional visits so as to keep your issue of concern before your representative and senators.

A New Approach: Video Advocacy Messages

Share your thoughts with your officials with a Video Advocacy Message in just three simple steps:

  1. Create a video in which you address your officials.
  2. Upload it to YouTube.
  3. Use this form to send it to your officials. View your Video Advocacy Message.

Helpful links:

Page Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 July 2009 12:56 PM



Education for Liberation! Venceremos Unidos! We Will Win United!

Peter S. Lopez ~aka: Peta

Sacramento, California,Aztlan

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