Let's face it: Lobbyists have an image problem. It sounds like a job where you're either furthering the interests of zillionaires or hanging around in . . . lobbies. But there are other kinds of lobbyists - do-gooders who bug lawmakers to pass legislation that helps, say, the environment or women in need.
Anyone, including you, can do it. To see how, we followed Christy Turlington Burns - Marie Claire's new contributing editor - to Capitol Hill, as she pushed for a Senate resolution to support a cause close to her heart: maternal health. The mom of two has been working hard with the humanitarian group CARE to raise awareness for women who don't have access to clinics or basic necessities for a safe birth. "More than 500,000 lives are lost around the world each year in pregnancy or childbirth," says Turlington Burns. "In some places, it's like a death sentence to get pregnant."
Looking low-key in black jeans, with her hair pulled back in a ponytail, Turlington Burns flew under the radar while she made her way through the halls of the Senate, passing clean-cut aides in seersucker suits (it was Seersucker Day in D.C., we learned). On the agenda: meetings with senators to gather support for the maternal health resolution (called S.Res.616), which outlines the scope of the problem and serves as the first step in an eventual push for legislation.
So how can you lobby for a good cause? Hook up with groups like CARE or Amnesty International to learn about policies they're lobbying for. Then contact your state legislators and get on their calendars. Yup, you can make a date with them - you're a voter. You might end up meeting with an assistant out in the hallway, but don't be discouraged; that person has the boss's ear. Keep your message concise, then ask for the official's support. Most important? Try not to be too wonky: Don't rattle off so many facts and figures that the person zones out. "It's the personal conversation that people remember," says Turlington Burns, who talked to senators about visiting her mother's homeland of El Salvador. "Find something meaningful that opens the door."
Thanks in part to the efforts of Turlington Burns, the Senate resolution was approved in October.
CHRISTY'S NEW GIG
As a Marie Claire contributor, Christy will take on a globe-trotting mission to fight for mothers. Click here to read her personal journal of her lobbying trips to D.C.
Photo: Erin Lubin/CARE
Abigail Pesta is an award-winning investigative journalist who writes for major publications around the world. She is the author of The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.
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