So, you need to influence federal budgetary policy to secure funding for a program. But earmarks are out (at least that’s what they’re telling you), and you need to find a way to still effectively do your job.
According to John Scofield of the Podesta Group, “Regulations are the new earmarks.” What Scofield alludes to is that one way to steer funds your way could be through petitioning the executive branch , particularly the regulatory agencies who are responsible for monitoring the implementation of Congress’s budget decisions. Lobby the agencies in conjunction with Congress; get a letter or promise of phone call from Members or staffers who are particularly geared up about your cause to support your argument before the executive branch.
Other useful tips include:
- Develop coalitions. The more people rallying on behalf of your cause, the broader your reach, and hence, the greater the success. Enlist stakeholders.
- Put a personal face to the problem. Elected officials are, well, elected. If you deploy constituents on your behalf, especially in the current climate with so many Congressional newbies in which things are more likely to happen on merit than rank, the chance of success increases exponentially. (Advise constituents NOT to threaten not to vote for the Member. Positive urging is more effective than threats.)
- Consider multiple approach angles. Repetition is not a bad thing. You may consider a targeted media approach, in which you generate a series of editorials by meaningful contributors in the right publications. Home district papers, though smaller and of less national attention, will catch the eye of particular Members and staff. There are, however, occasions when national and online media will be useful. Know your audience.
- Get in early. An appropriation enacted in March 2011 was submitted by the program 24 months earlier. Now is not a good time to go out for bid with hopes of impacting the FY2011 budget. And you are behind the curve on the FY2012 budget process. The best thing to do is to submit requests ON TIME during the subcommittee mark-up. If you don’t get into a subcommittee bill, you are unlikely to make it in at any later point of the process.
- Make reasonable asks. Learn what Congress actually has the power to do. Do not waste your time and energy (and the Member/staffer’s time and energy) petitioning for something the committee simply cannot do. This is where it may come in handy to build a Congressional champion to pen a letter of support to another entity, like a regulatory agency.
- Do your homework. Review the president’s budget justifications and incorporate your issues into the supplemental information. Hold desk-side briefings, ask to testify at hearings. Provide the staffers with draft questions they can ask during a hearing, whether you are involved or not. A “protect the budget request” angle will be much more effective than an “add to the budget request.” Find some way to relate your issue/program into the issues that are already center-stage in the committee’s mind.