Workshop 4: "Training in Lobbying Techniques"

Led by Marian Franz (USA)

Report by Marilyn Hébert (Canada)

Participants from six different countries profited from the wisdom gained by Marian Franz during her twenty years of lobbying parliamentarians both in Washington, DC and in parliamentarians' home districts at the invitation of US peace groups. The focus of Marian's work is the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund Bill.

Marian shared with us spiritual insights and reflections as well as lots of practical advice. Among what may be referred to as spiritual insights, one can mention the importance of persevering in the work of lobbying by reminding oneself of one's two-fold motivation for being involved in such work, namely concern for the victims of war and of preparation for war, and recognition of one's religious beliefs and/or rights of conscience. Marian also stressed the possibility of lobbying being an enjoyable experience and the importance of seeing this work as a privilege and of recognizing the power of deep commitment to communicate.

Here follows a listing of some practical advice – often mixed with spiritual insights – that Marian offered for our consideration:

  • Make an appointment. If possible, precede visit to parliamentarian with supportive letters from his/her constituents.
  • Right from the start, include the human element, be it chit-chat or positive feedback, such as congratulating the parliamentarian on some good stand or action.
  • Put the issues of rights of conscience and the peace tax bill in a context the parliamentarian can understand. (Example: If the law obliged you to sell drugs to children on the street, would you do it? Well, the law obliges me to do something my conscience tells me not to do.)
  • Watch for connecting links that come up spontaneously in the exchange and expand on them. (Example: Parliamentarian mentions a friend who was a CO in WW II.)
  • Approach parliamentarians with respect and concern for them as people and believe in their ability to change.
  • N.B. In this respect, Marian has learned that a quick diagnosis of how this parliamentarian fits into the lobbying work, helps in determining the course the lobbying will take:
  • Sponsor or cosponsors of Peace Tax Bill: remember these people need to hear expressions of gratitude.
  • Swing voters: keep a list on hand of those who have already changed their mind on this issue and mention their names to parliamentarians who resist.
  • Those who won't work against you.
  • Those who absolutely will work against you.
  • See yourself as a leading expert on what you believe …. Yours is a belief and a right, not an opinion!
  • Listen, keep calm, have patience. If necessary, remind parliamentarians that pacifists respect people and that their job as parliamentarians is to listen to what their constituents have to say.
  • Use your intuition to know when to stop talking and when to be creative – as by the use of examples.
  • Give weight to your arguments by telling tax resister stories and by mentioning the positions of religious leaders, if this is pertinent, and/or statements of organizations defending rights of conscience.
  • If the parliamentarian asks a question you cannot answer or argues a point for which no counter-argument comes to mind, offer to do some homework/research and to send a reply in writing as quickly as possible. Remember you do not need to have airtight arguments.
  • Leave something behind: Marian's folder (National Campaign For a Peace Tax Fund for the sake of conscience) contains the following: her calling card, the text of the bill, a one-page executive summary of the bill, rationale for the bill, a letter from a sponsor or a list of the names of sponsors and cosponsors of the bill, a book of stories of religious freedom and conscience in the United States. Other ideas mentioned include a graphic showing the amount invested in arms trade/military expenditures etc., (see for a graphic on USA spending on armaments and the military) and a page of frequently given arguments and counter-arguments.
  • Plan a follow-up so as to develop a rapport with the parliamentarian contacted. Send a thank-you note.
  • Do an evaluation and write up a report. Of course should the lobbying be done by a group of 2 persons, then plan ahead of time the interventions of each person and evaluate the experience together prior to the written report. For the evaluation, focus on such points as what went well/less well/the turning point/how to gather momentum.

For those of us who are novices with regard to lobbying techniques, this workshop was an eye-opener and a confidence-builder! Thanks, Marian!