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Thursday, January 19, 2017

 9:18 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: New year, new offices, new beginnings

Happy New Year!  Tomorrow, January 20th, begins a new presidential administration and with it will come many new beginnings.  We cannot plan for or expect government to be “business as usual” because in a strange irony, America elected a businessman, not a politician, to be the leader of the free world.  Like any transition, there will be growing pains.  There will be changes – some more noticeable than others.  And this inauguration, there will be a larger shake-up of the status quo, per the electorate.

Additionally, earlier this month, Senators and Representatives were sworn into office for the start of a new Congress.  Each comes to D.C. with a sense of purpose and hopes to make a difference.

As voters and advocates, we do not need to agree with any or all the positions these officials take, however we should always respect the office they hold in representing our one nation under God.

If an advocate has not already, now is the time to get organized for the year, including updating contact information.  For example, many Wisconsin officials in Washington, D.C., have new office addresses, including: Representatives Duffy (2330 Rayburn), Gallagher (1007 Longworth), Grothman (1217 Longworth), and Pocan (1421 Longworth).  Telephone numbers and email addresses remain the same.

Furthermore, it is important to remember that as a new Congress begins, the scoreboard returns to zero as the restart button is pushed.  Legislation that was introduced or was moving last year is back to square one.  Now is the time for making known any needed edits to legislation that will be reintroduced, updating materials, reconnecting with allies, or beginning the advocacy push again.

Now is also a good time to think about specifics.  Saying “We need healthcare prices to decrease” is not as helpful as providing good examples of ways to potentially achieve this.  As new staff members join offices, it is also a great time for a group or business to make an introduction, explain its presence in the district, and how it can help the office – without making a formal ask.

A new session offers a fresh start.  If a group has not reached across the aisle before, or needs to make amends, there is no time like the present to extend the olive branch.

Finally, let us not forget patience and understanding as new officials and new staff are finding their way – we were all new at our jobs once and mistakes are not only bound to happen, but to error is human.  The important thing is forgiving and working to move forward, because we all sink or swim together.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. Like 1492 Communications on Facebook to learn more.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

 8:26 AM 

Committee assignments taking shape for Wis. congressional delegation

Committee assignments are starting to firm up for Wisconsin’s members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Mark Pocan announcing he’ll serve on Appropriations.

The appointment, which the Town of Vermont Dem said will be a chance for him to “fight for middle class families,” is one of several that’s been announced so far.

Below is a summary of the appointments for the state’s congressional delegation, according to their aides or news releases. The list excludes House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Janesville.

*U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson will remain chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. He’ll continue to chair the Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation within the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee. He’ll also serve on the Budget Committee and the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

*U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin will stay on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. She’ll also join the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation.

*U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner will be on the House Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.

*U.S. Rep. Ron Kind will be on the Ways and Means Committee.

*U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher will be on the Armed Services Committee and is still waiting to hear on other appointments.

*U.S. Rep. Sean Duffy will be on the House Financial Services Committee, chairing its Subcommittee on Housing and Insurance. A spokesman said it’s yet to be decided whether he’ll have other roles within the committee.

*U.S. Rep. Glenn Grothman’s only confirmed appointment so far is to the Committee on Budget, a spokeswoman said, adding that the decision on other committees is forthcoming.

*U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore’s assignments haven’t yet been decided, a spokesman said. Last session, she was on the Committee on Financial Services and the Committee on Budget.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

 10:54 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: 2016 Top Ten Tips in Review

Whoa for 2016.  We witnessed ups, downs, and all-arounds, and left plenty of issues needing advocating in 2017.  To wrap up the year and prepare for the next, below are the Top Ten Advantageous Advocacy column tips.

1. Honesty is the best policy.  Once credibility is lost, the ship has sailed.

2. Respect time.  Wasting it is neither appreciated nor forgotten by an official.

3. Agree to disagree.  Never make attacks personal or shoot the messenger.  An advocate may disagree today, but may need to work with that same person in the future.

4. Do not talk about political contributions in an official meeting.  It sends a signal that this person either thinks the staff can be easily bought or that the staff was not professional enough to help unless the "skids were greased." Offending a staff person is never a good start to a meeting.

5. Trying to go over a staff person’s head is far more likely to damage an advocate’s reputation.  He is often hurting himself and slowing down the process.

6. Honor the lifelines.  As gatekeepers, they can facilitate a request or frustrate it. They can prevent an advocate/lobbyist from ever getting a meeting or provide useful knowledge.

7. Keep it simple.  After surveying of dozens of Hill staff, a whopping 88 percent said that for a first meeting with any group, they would prefer the group assumes the congressional office knows nothing about the topic at hand. Start at the very beginning.

8. In developing a message for an elected official, think RED.  Reason.  Emotion.  District.  Voting is one of the most important duties of an elected official. In a majority of cases, one, or perhaps two, and sometimes even all three categories of RED will greatly influence how an official decides on a vote.

9. Listen.  A person has two ears and one mouth, and should use them in proportion.  Listening requires being humble enough to focus 100 percent on someone else.  Listening entails complete concentration – not just hearing the sounds – but comprehending the words, and noticing body language and other non-verbal cues. Listening to what is NOT being said is also important because most staff and officials do not like giving “bad” news – therefore, an advocate sometimes needs to read between the lines and hear the unsaid no.  

10. Develop relationships, not a network.  Far too many individuals are focused on the instant reward, how fast they can work a room, and the number of business cards they can acquire at an event.  What is often overlooked in the networking game is actually developing some of that network into a sincere relationship - yes, a real friend - someone who is trustworthy, genuine, and giving.  In the age of virtual relationships, that real relationship can mean far more, both personally and professionally.  Think more Vanguard, less Pay Day Loan. A person wants to invest in another person, wants for that investment to grow, and would even take it paying back dividends at some point. Note the order of that: giving, growing, possible return.

Remember that everyone is capable of advocacy; passionate and committed people are the crux of advocacy.  In the story, "The Lorax," by Dr. Seuss, he writes, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."

An elected official works for the people. The people's tax dollars pay his salary. The people who vote determine whether the official keeps his job. For an official to effectively serve and be reelected, he needs information from the people who know the issues best.  Bottom line: officials cannot represent us well if constituents are not willing to share their thoughts, ideas and knowledge through advocacy.

Thanks to WisPolitics and everyone for reading.  More on each of the top 10 tips can be found in full by visiting: www.1492communications.com/advocacy.  Happy holidays and looking forward to a great year of advocacy in 2017.
-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. Like 1492 Communications on Facebook to learn more.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

 10:53 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: Good letters are read, the rest are tallied

After a busy and political November, this week’s column takes a lighter tone: tips for letters. 

Letters and emails are still the most common form of communicating with a member of Congress. Depending on the office, officials often receive hundreds to thousands of letters each week on a range of topics as wide as the ocean.  Emails can easily be sent to most members of Congress via the official’s webpage (Note: this usually requires the constituent’s zip code to start and most sites do not allow for attachments).

Some of these letters are sent as form letters.  These forms are often drafted by an association or a cause, and sent to its membership or supporters, as an URGENT “action item” to sign and forward along to a specific official.  For most officials, unless there is an extremely massive quantity of form letters, the letters may flag the issue, but they do not move the needle.  (And candidly, most staff find them to be a bit of a nuisance). 

One of the biggest problems with form letters is that neither officials, nor their staff, really know the level of passion or commitment to the cause that a form letter signer holds.  In surveying staff on this issue, one said that he called a few signers to gain a better understanding of the issue, and one signer said how he did not really know anything, while another said a neighbor asked her to forward it so she did, and so on it goes… not the best advocates.  These letters are usually tallied up, the signer is often sent a courtesy form response back, and that is the end of it.  In my experience, most form letters are a waste of time and a good reminder to always know what is being signed. 

Facebook posts are growing more popular, however, an official usually cannot tell if the person is a constituent or not, so this is also not the most effective approach if a constituent is really trying to have a message be heard by his representative or senator. 

If a person does not have a relationship with an office from a previous encounter, a good, old-fashioned, signed personal letter or email is still the way to go for written contact.  Keep in mind that snail mail coming into the U.S. Capitol is screened, delaying its arrival.  If an issue is urgent, an email or phone call may be best.  For many offices, ten, genuine, personal letters are far more impactful than 100 form letters.  A personal letter from a constituent that tells the story about how a person is specifically impacted by an issue, shares his opinion on legislation, and is polite and factually accurate, is valued.  Doing all that in one page, and definitely less than two pages, is greatly appreciated.  These are the letters that are READ, not tallied.  Plus, personal letters often need and receive a more personal response.  If a constituent feels his letter was not responded to well, or was too generic, the constituent should write another letter.  Offices keep track of sent letters, so the staff will need to put more effort into a second response, as it should not send the same letter again.   

And of course, if letter writing is not a person’s favorite activity, there is always making an actual telephone call to the office or attending a town hall meeting – depending on the issue and time-sensitivity, each method has its own benefits and value.  

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. Like 1492 Communications on Facebook to learn more.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

 11:11 AM 

Wendy Riemann column: Advantageous Advocacy: Faith, hope, love and Trump

Eight years ago, I teared up on Election Night.  I had quit my job, moved to Iowa – where I knew no one – to spend five months living out of a cheap hotel room and working 18 hour days campaigning for John McCain to be the next president … and then we lost.

I did not understand how America could elect an inexperienced community organizer who, in my eyes, was a talented speaker lacking substance, over a wise, experienced war hero, to be the leader of the free world.  But, the people had spoken.  Democracy worked.  I turned off the news, took a breath and packed my office.

Life always provides winners and losers, and I had lost.  However, I knew the sun would still rise, and that even after campaigning against President-elect Barack Obama because he terrified me, I knew I was beyond privileged to live in the United States – the truest, most elite one percent.

Fast forward eight years, and in irony of all irony’s, on Election Day, I thought, “maybe Obama is not so bad.”  I did not agree with him on almost anything besides a March Madness bracket – but he seemed okay and a good dad.  However, democracy propels us forward.

The pendulum swung hard from “change we can believe in” to change.  Despite the most untraditional campaign, lack of political experience and an unapologizing biased media, people voted for now President-elect Donald Trump.

In the days since, I have read and heard countless comments aimed at Trump and Republicans and Democrats, that are far worse than anything Trump has said.  How does this make us any better?  He started it?  That is the example of civility we set for our children?  Hate – one.  Forgiveness – zero?
Yes, there are bad eggs on both sides who are using this election to act in horrible ways.  But that is exactly what they are – bad eggs.  (Trump was a registered Democrat from August 2001 to September 2009).

The majority of Trump supporters are no more racist and sexist than Hillary Clinton supporters are entitled and whiny losers.

Rather than spewing hate, labeling, or typecasting someone for their vote, we should concede that not all voters liked the choices and remember this in future elections.  For many, it was despite the candidate’s positions, not because of them: what was “less evil” based on personal ideology.  It was not as much racism as resentment – a resentment that grew into a Trump movement as the participation-ribbon, safe-space, no-feelings-left-behind political correctness bubble appeared to be permanently ballooning out of control.

Personally, I have worked in Washington politics for a decade and have experienced the “boys club” firsthand on numerous occasions.  I feared Washington moving backward.  I also know Republican women in the military who feared Clinton, because after Benghazi, she could not be trusted to have their back.

We all voted the way we thought best.  I accept Trump won, and I support him for four main reasons.
First, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead,” as Clinton compellingly said in her concession speech.  Painful words to utter, yet true.  Campaigning is over and the reset button must be pressed.  No one is perfect, and few of us would like our life scrutinized like a presidential candidate.  In opening my mind, I acknowledged that Trump had a (pretty amazing) female in the top job – something many male leaders would never do.  His eldest daughter is clearly a strong, capable business woman.  This gives me faith.

Second, Trump said a lot of things on the campaign trail, but many will prove as likely as the numerous celebrities who said they would leave the country if he won.  Now that we have struck both sides of the pendulum, perhaps it will not be much longer before we return to the middle, stop tip-toeing around issues and hold honest discussions.  I have hope.

Third, Trump is the president-elect.  Come January 20th, 2017, he is the pilot of Plane America.  We all soar to new heights or crash and burn with him in the cockpit.  I want America to soar.  Before turning my back or passing harsh judgment on him as a person, I will let Trump take office and watch his actions that first 100 days.  When I do not agree, or I witness injustice, I am not going to light cars on fire, or punch people, nor will I wait four years for another election.  I will channel that emotion into having my voice be heard in a constructive way and speaking up for those who cannot.  Love of country.

If you recall, when Obama took office, many thought he oozed arrogance and an ego.  He also had darker hair.  The greatness of the office humbled him… and aged him.  Trump is clearly already recognizing the HUGGEEENESS of this position, and we should allow him the same moment we would want to truly begin to process the weight being placed on our shoulders.  I prefer my glass half-full and do believe he wants to do well by America.  Vice President-elect Mike Pence most certainly does.

Finally, let us not blame all our anger and the world’s problems on one person most of us have never met.  As the former First Lady Barbara Bush said, “Your success as a family…our success as a nation… depends not on what happens inside the White House, but on what happens inside your house.”

Decisions we make start with us.  Actions we take start with us.  In our house.  Not every four years, but every single day.  In all our words.  All our actions.  Our compassion for others.  No elected official, regardless of title, can instantly make our culture in America better – only we can do that by actively living faith, hope and love among each other every day.

-- Riemann is president of 1492 Communications, a consulting firm. Like 1492 Communications on Facebook to learn more.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

 10:15 AM 

Schumer adds Baldwin to Senate Dem leadership team

Newly elected leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, announced today he is expanding the Senate Dems leadership team to add Tammy Baldwin, Bernie Sanders and Joe Manchin.

Baldwin, D-Madison, comes from the party’s progressive wing, while Manchin, D-W.V., is one of the more moderate members of the caucus. Sanders, meanwhile, has been an independent who caucused with Dems before running for the party’s presidential nomination this cycle. All three are up for re-election in 2018.

Baldwin will serve as Democratic Conference secretary, Sanders chair of outreach and Manchin vice chair of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

Baldwin wrote in a Facebook post that too "many Americans feel like they are being left behind" and she will be focused on "making a difference in people's everyday lives." She also wrote "the Republican establishment now owns Washington" with lobbyists, big banks and Wall Street "calling the shots."

"I have never been afraid to stand up to these powerful interests in Washington and I will continue my fight for the people of Wisconsin to build an economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top," Baldwin wrote.

Schumer noted the caucus previously had a seven-person leadership team. Adding the three members “shows we can unite the disparate factions of our party and our country. Our whole leadership team is emblematic of that.”

He also said the Dem team is ideologically and geographically diverse, mixing the “wisdom of experience with the vigor of youth.”

“But from top to bottom, the common thread is that each of these senators have devoted their lives to fighting for the middle class and those struggling to get there,” Schumer said. “Each of us, each of us, believes we need sharper, bolder economic message about returning the economic system, which so many feel is rigged against them, to one that works for the people.”

-- By JR Ross

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

 1:05 PM 

House Republicans unanimously back Ryan to return next session as speaker

House Republicans today unanimously backed Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, to return next session as speaker.

The formal floor vote will be in January, when Ryan would need a majority vote of those present -- typically 218 votes -- to hold onto the gavel.

Ryan tweeted after the vote, "It is a tremendous honor to be nominated by my colleagues to serve as Speaker of the House. Now it’s time to go big."

 8:22 AM 

Ryan formally announces re-election bid for speaker

Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, has written his GOP colleagues formally indicating his plans to run for re-election as speaker, saying he has heard from them "it is time to go big."

Ryan, who won the post a little more than a year ago after John Boehner stepped down, asked colleagues to think back to that period. He wrote they were divided as a conference. But instead of "continuing to drift," Republicans unified, went on offense and opened up lines of communication as they "developed a positive, specific policy agenda, and took it to the country."

He wrote that agenda will allow Republicans to hit the ground running with President-elect Trump.

"If we go for it -- if we go big and go bold -- we can make America so great that it offers our children even more than it offers us," Ryan wrote.

The House Republican Conference is set to meet today for leadership elections. There will then be a floor vote in January, when Ryan would have to garner a majority of members present to retain the gavel.

Read the email:

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