Politicians Respond to Grassroots Initiatives

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2012-01-18 Print this article Print


2. Send the letter by FedEx. The letter will still be opened by some junior staffer, but when a letter appears in the magical FedEx envelope, it gets special attention. After all, if you're willing to drop $20 to send a letter, it must be important, right? Email is free, which is why it's generally ignored.

3. Make sure your letter is no more than one page long, and that you proofread it. In the letter, make sure you tell the legislator what bill you're writing about and why (in rational language) you oppose it. Then, in two paragraphs, say what you think should be done instead. For example, suggest including representatives from Internet companies in future hearings-something that didn't happen in the last set of hearings. Also suggest an alternate approach to meeting the needs of everyone concerned without Draconian results, arbitration, for example.

4. Be polite in how you discuss the issues. Nobody likes to read letters that are argumentative or insulting, and this includes members of Congress. If they don't read your letter, it doesn't do any good to write it. If you're insulting or abusive, that junior staffer I mentioned earlier will simply toss your letter into the "hate mail" pile where it will never see the light of day.

5. Get with some friends or associates, and discuss what workable solutions you would like to see. Remember that these solutions must address the needs of the Internet community. Acknowledge the vital place the Internet holds in the global economy and concede that it must address the legitimate rights of the owners of intellectual property. Do some collaboration in your blogs or on your Facebook page or across a table at Starbucks, but have as many people as possible recommend similar actions. Then, it will seem like a grassroots proposal, and politicians love those.

6. If you find a workable proposal already out there on the Internet somewhere, then by all means, mention it.

7. Finally, stress the need of all interested parties, including the Internet community, to take place in any future hearings. This part is vital.

Right now, SOPA and PIPA are effectively dead at least for this term. But you can be certain that they will rise, zombie-like from the dead once the recording companies and the movie companies get their second wind. When that happens, you need to have already started sending your letters to your representatives in Congress. You should have gone by their town meetings or dropped in to their offices in Washington (yes, you really can go into the Congressional office buildings) and explained your concerns. Remember, they want to get re-elected. You're the one with the vote and maybe a contribution. They really do want to hear from you.


Wayne Rash Wayne Rash is a Senior Analyst for eWEEK Labs and runs the magazineÔÇÖs Washington Bureau. Prior to joining eWEEK as a Senior Writer on wireless technology, he was a Senior Contributing Editor and previously a Senior Analyst in the InfoWorld Test Center. He was also a reviewer for Federal Computer Week and Information Security Magazine. Previously, he ran the reviews and events departments at CMP's InternetWeek.

He is a retired naval officer, a former principal at American Management Systems and a long-time columnist for Byte Magazine. He is a regular contributor to Plane & Pilot Magazine and The Washington Post.

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