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By Tawanda W. Johnson
Constituents are five times more likely to persuade a member of Congress on a particular issue than influential DC lobbyists, according to a study by the Congressional Management Foundation.
And it is for that reason that the APS Office of Public Affairs (OPA) recently began a new integrated advocacy strategy to accomplish its science policy goals.
The strategy begins with APS OPA gathering information on positions held by members of Congress. The office then identifies and works with APS member/constituents to deliver a local message that is amplified through a locally based grassroots campaign. In the last step, OPA staff meets with congressional staffers in DC to reinforce the message.
APS OPA refined the strategy through recent state-based campaigns in Texas and South Dakota. It then put the full strategy to the test. The goal: urge U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to reject President Donald Trump’s proposed cuts to science. Trump had proposals for cuts in both the fiscal year 2017 and 2018 budgets.
“We put this strategy in play in Ohio after we learned that Sen. Portman had become very influential with the new administration,” said Francis Slakey, interim director of public affairs for APS OPA. “If Portman—an administration confidant—could be encouraged to reject Trump’s proposed cuts to science, it would become easier for other Republicans to do the same.”
To implement the Ohio strategy, Greg Mack, OPA government relations specialist, contacted Jessica O. Winter, a professor at The Ohio State University, who had a compelling story to tell about beating cancer due to advances in science.
Winter worked with APS OPA staff to publish an op-ed in The Hill, a leading Capitol Hill newspaper.
After the op-ed was published, APS OPA sent an alert to Ohio APS members encouraging them to contact Portman and amplify the message in the piece. APS OPA provided tweets, a sample email, and even a draft phone script to aid the effort. APS members took advantage of all the options — Portman’s office was contacted more than 100 times, urging him to reject the proposed funding cuts.
APS OPA staff followed up those actions with a meeting in Portman’s DC office to reinforce the message.
When Congress released its budget bill to close out the remainder of fiscal year 2017, it did not contain the deep cuts to science that Trump had proposed. “You can never know how much influence any one action has,” said Slakey, “but certainly APS members’ voices were heard.”
With Congress asserting its authority and rejecting deep cuts, APS OPA has plans to work with APS members in numerous districts and states during the next few months, using this integrated advocacy approach to support science in the fiscal year 2018 budget.
“This new integrated advocacy approach has worked well for APS OPA. We’ve been able to mobilize our members to use a variety of techniques to contact their congressional members about important policy issues,” said Mack. “We’ve come a long way from the days of simply taking meetings with congressional staffers on Capitol Hill. Our strategy is based on data and consistent with new ways of communicating on diverse platforms.”
The author is press secretary in the APS Office of Public Affairs.
The APS OPA website has a new Advocacy Dashboard that highlights the active advocacy issues for APS and allows APS members to easily take action on them through emails, phone calls, or tweets. It also includes background information on policy and the APS position on each issue, as well as statistics for APS-member involvement.
APS OPA wants to provide APS members easy access to resources on such issues as the federal science budget, STEM education, climate change, and more. The Dashboard will be updated periodically, especially as active issues evolve or new ones are added.
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Editor: David Voss
Staff Science Writer: Rachel Gaal
Contributing Correspondent: Alaina G. Levine
Publication Designer and Production: Nancy Bennett-Karasik