Volunteers urge grasstops to get involved in email and call campaigns
By Katie Zakrzewski
Citizens’ Climate Lobby’s recent email and call campaigns to the Senate and the House have encouraged politicians to support a price on carbon in the reconciliation process. But many volunteers have gone further than contacting their members of Congress — they have led the charge to encourage their local grasstops leaders to reach out to Congress as well. Our volunteers have generated tons of these types of contacts, which stand out to Congress and help push our message even further.
So, how did volunteers go about engaging the grasstops in this recent push? From leveraging media and personal connections, revisiting supportive endorsers, and making one-on-one requests, here are a few tactics that helped generate more messages to Congress.
Using media as a conversation starter
Volunteer Mary Hansen from Illinois wrote a letter to the editor in her local newspaper, and used her letter to get the attention of her local board members.
In a letter titled “Carbon tax is essential to fighting climate change,” Mary addresses the Senate Financial Committee’s statements and makes a compelling case for carbon pricing.
“A carbon tax brings anyone who buys anything into the climate solution effort because when something is more expensive, we use less of it,” Mary wrote. “The faster we address the climate crisis, the less it will cost us in the long run.”
Mary explains that she “then shared that LTE with our Village Board Trustees and Village President and asked them to identify their positions when emailing President Biden and our Senators via cclusa.org/white-house.” She chronicled her grasstops outreach efforts in a CCL Community post.
“One Trustee promptly responded that she had emailed them and thanked me for pointing out a next step. One of eight is good for me,” Mary said.
Bruce Hagen and Paul Larkin in California took the step of getting several notable winery owners to reach out to their members of Congress with a carbon pricing endorsement. The two emailed winery owners that they had done business with previously, and made them aware of the Wine Industry Climate Declaration, as well as the importance of endorsing a carbon price.
Hagen told one winery owner over email, “Our Congressmen Jared Huffman and Mike Thompson (Chair of the Congressional Wine Caucus) really need to hear from winemakers that the Democrat climate bill needs to include a carbon fee and dividend.”
This particular winery owner agreed and forwarded Hagen’s and Larkin’s emails to 11 other business owners.
Revisiting supportive groups
In addition to businesses, CCLers have had success engaging advocacy groups to contact Congress. Group leader Robin Paone of Montana explained that one of her other volunteers won the support of Montana Trout Unlimited last year, and that volunteer reached back out to the organization this year. Montana Trout Unlimited informed the volunteer that they had a governmental affairs staff meeting planned with Montana’s senators. The CCL volunteer followed up with information about the importance of a carbon price on the economic impact of trade and tariffs. Montana Trout Unlimited replied that they were adding a price on carbon to their agenda.
Robin Paone also reached out to the owner of an environmental consulting firm in her home state of Montana. The owner replied to her with a lengthy email about how important it was to contact their senators about climate change. Robin said that the two continued to talk back and forth over email about a price on carbon. “Now I know a little more about him, and I feel like I can ask him to participate in future actions like a lobby team or endorsements,” Robin said.
Paone also enlisted the help of volunteers. After creating a spreadsheet of endorsers and their delegates, Paone and volunteers sent out emails to endorsers and followed up with phone calls and voicemails to let them know about CCL’s campaign.
Group leader Mark Welsch of Nebraska agrees that the easiest way to get endorsements is to simply ask.
“I’ve called professors and well-respected business owners and my pastor. Some of them I made an appointment to talk with,” Mark said. Mark shares that he fills out the email forms for some of the people he meets with to ensure that one will get filled out. “I make it as easy as possible for people to do.”
Mark said that he brought a CCL volunteer with him to meet the owner of a well-known grocery store. “I was only halfway through explaining what a carbon price would do when he stopped me and told me that he wanted to help. He was sold before I could even finish.”
Like Robin, Mark sent emails to grasstops leaders in his state and followed up with an email shortly after. “Most people are eager to help. You get an opportunity to catch up with people too,” Mark said. “It’s fun, it’s exciting, and it’s effective.”
In addition to getting grasstops voices to speak up to Congress, some CCLers set an ambitious goal to get grasstops voices to speak up in public — and they made it happen.
Christine Missik from Danville, Kentucky, organized an effort to get endorsements for a carbon price from Kentucky’s faith leaders. Over 100 clergy members from multiple denominations signed a public letter endorsing a price on carbon as an effective way to care for God’s creation.
“As stewards of God’s creation, we bear a moral and spiritual responsibility to prevent a worsening climate crisis. We ask our members of Congress to act decisively: Enact a carbon pricing policy,” the letter reads.
Christine shares more about what inspired her. “After an ‘Economists’ Statement’ came out in Indiana, we were inspired to reach out to economists in Kentucky, asking them to sign a statement in favor of carbon fee and dividend. This was a success,” she writes. “CCLers around the state reached out to faith leaders they knew in order to [get] signatures before we reached out to leaders who we didn’t know. In both cases we were able to show significant support from grasstops.”
Missik explained that the group took steps to ensure that the endorsements could easily be recognized as legitimate and powerful.
“With both statements, the philosophy was to make it as fast and easy as possible for people to sign. Also we always want to show the names of other supporters, so that subsequent supporters would trust that this was a legitimate and worthwhile effort.”
Big effort, big results
CCL is home to some of lobbying’s most creative and hardworking volunteers, such as the folks mentioned above. Their outside-the-box creativity and goal-driven determination contributed to the more than 130,000 messages CCL has generated to Senate offices, House offices, and the President in the last few months. And that outreach is still ongoing! You can keep up with the progress in our outreach campaign to Congress and the President here.