Congressional Education Day is unique and powerful. Here’s why.
By Flannery Winchester
“It was a very heavy lift for me, because we weren’t sure it was going to be a good idea for the organization—and it was my idea.” That’s what Legislative Director Dr. Danny Richter remembers about CCL’s first Congressional Education Day. It was November 2014, and around 75 volunteers were coming to Washington to lobby Congress for the second time that year.
Luckily, Danny didn’t have to worry too much. Congressional Education Day was a wild success. “I remember celebrating the first one with pizza at a church I was able to reserve for free just off Capitol Hill. The mood was ebullient, and people were fired up. It was, at that point, clear that this had been a good idea.”
The origins of Congressional Education Day
CCL already makes a big splash in Washington, D.C. every year with our conference and lobby day in June. So why did we start going in November too? “It was the result of some strategic thinking,” Danny explained. He asked himself, “What does CCL do best?” and the answer was that we get lots of constituents to DC to lobby Congress with intelligent arguments. Since those efforts had been successful at moving the ball forward with Congress, Danny realized doubling those efforts would be even better. “Instead of just a June lobby day, a second lobby day would be twice as nice,” he said.
Returning to D.C. in November gave volunteers enough down time to recover from the excitement and demands of the June lobbying effort before gearing up again. November is also a time of year ripe for tough conversations. “In election years, it puts us right in the thick of it when Congress is most unsettled, and thus most open to suggestion,” Danny said. It’s an exciting time, though it can be hard to navigate that political space. “Keeping our message about education helps us stay steady in those choppy waters, while still being perfectly positioned to bring climate and Carbon Fee and Dividend to top of mind while party leadership is trying to determine their priorities over the next two years.”
Making ourselves useful
The real magic of the Congressional Education Day is that it gives CCL a chance to connect with members of Congress in a different way. “In June, we make the hard ask,” Danny explained, such as prompting representatives to join the Climate Solutions Caucus. But in November, instead of of asking them for something, “We provide a valuable resource that no other group provides.” That valuable resources is the June Analysis.
The June Analysis begins with gathering all the meeting notes from June into one spreadsheet and doing a careful, close reading. Danny tracks a variety of topics that appear in those meeting notes—last year he tracked 47 different ones. “These are topics like the Climate Solutions Caucus, the border issue, the dividend,” Danny explained. Basically, whatever the offices are discussing with our volunteers, we want to watch how that discussion develops. To that end, Danny also tracks exactly how the topic was approached: whether the representative was expressing concern, asking a question, suggesting something, expressing interest, or making some other kind of comment on the topic. Once those pieces of data are all in place, Danny conducts the analysis and puts the findings together in a report like this one. It addresses the concerns the offices expressed and how engaged representatives are on this issue as a whole.
That report is integral to the success of Congressional Education Day. In November, this report is shared with all the offices on the Hill, regardless of who currently agrees or disagrees with our policy goals. The response on the Hill is always “very positive,” Danny said, because we’re “showing MoCs that CCL volunteers really are a resource. Everyone wants to be a resource—CCL volunteers really can deliver. This is the event where we show that.”
And we don’t stop there. Each year, Congressional Education Day includes a special briefing for members of Congress so they can learn more about these issues. “To pair the analysis with a high-quality briefing, as we’ve done for every November Education day, shows a remarkable amount of advance planning and organizational chops,” Danny said. The representatives leave feeling informed and impressed, and it all gets us closer to the goal of passing Carbon Fee & Dividend.
Want to join in?
This year’s Congressional Education Day takes place on November 13 and 14. In a year when President Trump’s administration has backed away from climate leadership, it’s more important than ever that we continue educating Congress about effective, popular climate solutions.
Registration opens September 9, but hotel information, pricing details, and FAQs are up on our website now. We hope you can join us for this unique, powerful piece of CCL’s advocacy work!