Lobbying in National Legislatures

Workshop Number 1

Led by Marian Franz

The workshop consisted of three main parts: an introduction to lobbying by Marian, a role-play with ‘Senator’ Paul Sheldon, and a discussion.

Marian, a lobbyist for 18 years, gave the following suggestions:

Present conscientious objection to military taxation as a belief, not an opinion.

To counter the argument that there will always be taxpayers who oppose some form of government spending, make clear that COMT differs in that it compels people to risk property seizures by the IRS because of their conscience. Tell the stories of ordinary people whose property was seized.

Stress the fact that it is not that we are unwilling to pay, but that we cannot pay. It is our beliefs, our conscience, that we violate if we pay.

Put the question back to the legislator: Is there a way that the law can accommodate COMT so that we can pay our taxes?

Be persistent. Try to speak with legislators in an informal setting - not in public.

Lobby with a group of representatives from the same party. You cannot expect one Republican to openly support the bill; they could only openly support it as a group.

Marian explained her strategy: Every two years the bill has to be reintroduced. First, she visits all former cosponsors to see if they are still supportive. (These are the nice visits.) Then she will go to a Republican, to a strong pro defense legislator, and to persons who have received letters from their own districts. For example, there is a strong pro defense Congressman who is also strongly in favor of religious freedom. He may be nearly at the point of supporting the bill, and that will be a major breakthrough. Others will realize that if one who strongly favors defense spending supports the bill, they cannot easily ignore it.

Marian identified four categories of legislators:

  • Those who support you (cosponsors of the bill);
  • those on the ‘swing-list’ who with a push might be persuaded to support the bill;
  • those who step aside: they are not in favor of you, but will not be against you: and,
  • those who are against you.

Suzanne said that after a lobby meeting they have a ‘debriefing’ session with Marian who records everything. Such lobby history can be very useful. She cited the example of a time when they felt very disappointed with their lobby meeting, but when they reviewed the records they found they had really made progress compared to a previous meeting with that legislator.

Jackie told how Conscience lobbied MPs in the opposition party in the UK and gained their support. After Parliament changed, some of their supporters are in government. Although they do not openly support Conscience, their support is still there.

Don explained that in Canada they focus lobbying efforts on MPs from any party who serve on certain commissions. He said that they are successful because they have an elder stateswoman in their lobby group.

Suzanne Day, Robin Harper and Paul Sheldon did a role-play of two war tax resisters meeting with a senator. (This can be heard on the audiotape) After the role-play the following remarks were made:

  • The lobbyists asked the main question. ‘Will you support the bill?’ too quickly.
  • They did not give enough response to the senators suggestion that COs benefit themselves.
  • They could have stressed more that the bill does not change the amount of tax the CO has to pay.
  • If you do not let legislators speak, or you cut them off they become defensive.
  • Do your homework well beforehand; try to find out the legislator's thoughts and ideas.
  • Point out that there are more ways to defend a country than by military means.
  • Try not to overwhelm the legislator.
  • Learn how to make a legislator open-minded for example, get training and read the book, From Argument to Dialogue

Participants: Marian Franz (workshop leader), Paul Sheldon, Daniel Lundquist, Martin Voigt, Dirk Panhuis, Jennifer Beall, Edith Cole, Jackie Hoskins, Richard Reichley, Robin Harper, Don Woodside, Sue Klassen, David Mycoff, Suzanne Day, Frank Sivertsen, Marjorie Maher, János Rátkai, Bart Horeman, reporter.