Lobbying 101

Last week, in my group, Students Against Modern Slavery, I gave a short lesson on how to lobby and thought it would be valuable to share with you tips on how to lobby, in case you want to take your awareness about human trafficking to the next level by persuading a legislator to support anti-trafficking legislation. As I described in an earlier post, I lobbied Zoe Lofgren about the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act and successfully convinced her to cosponsor it. I also learned much of what I know through International Justice Misson’s Freedom Commons, so definitely check them out for more insight (I will include more resources at the end).

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When you are lobbying, you essentially want to effectively articulate a specific request in a short amount of time. It is crucial that you establish a context for your meeting, explain the issue, how you want your legislator to solve it, and leave having made a feasibly accomplished request. In order to accomplish this, you will need to have 1) done a good amount of primary research (which, lucky for you, I will help out with!) and 2) a clear meeting plan.


The planning stages:

It is important to have a strong basic knowledge of

  • the legislator** you are speaking to (check out how they have voted in the past on other trafficking-related bills here for the House or here for the Senate). Also, definitely do a little bit of research about the legislator and the issues that he or she cares about via his or her website.
  • the bill you are meeting with your legislator to discuss (Look up any piece of legislation here).
  • any potential issues about the bill that people have debated, things that may come up in the meeting (check out blogs or other articles written about it).

Then you should outline your meeting and rehearse it (no shame in talking to yourself in the mirror!) so that you are confident when you are sitting in front of the legislator. I learned the “4 Cs” of lobbying from the International Justice Mission and would highly recommend organizing your meeting in such a way.


Briefly introduceScreen Shot 2014-05-12 at 11.12.06 PM yourself (2 minutes max) and establish yourself as an authority on the topic, explaining why the legislator should want to listen to you. This could include where you live (especially if it is in his or her constituency), the organization you are representing, and/or the work you have done/ way you have been exposed to human trafficking. If you have any way of forging a more intimate connection with the legislator, this would be the time to do it. (“My daughter goes to the school you went to.” “I saw you speak at such&such convention.” “We go to the same church.” “I was from Boston myself!”… whatever it may be!)



This is where you establish why you are there and what you have come to talk about. I would suggest transitioning from connect to context by putting the legislator in his or her context. For example, you may begin with,  “As your voting record shows, you are already quite aware of the prevalence of human trafficking. I would like to thank you for voting for XYZ bill.” Make them feel good and appreciated. Legislators work hard and get a lot more backlash than praise, so showing that you recognize that they do positive work will set your meeting on the right foot. Once you’ve provided a context of why you are there specifically, give some context on the issue as a whole. This may mean giving some data, but also giving a short tidbit of how that data looks in the real world. Stories and statistics are always stronger together than alone, so try to give both, but no matter how you decide to capture human trafficking, ensure that you are painting it in its pervasiveness, not just as one sad story you heard about in India or whatever. Based on your research of the legislator, you will know how expansive his or her knowledge is about the topic. Some you may just need to say, “As you surely know, 27 million people are still enslaved to this day,” while others may need a more comprehensive definition of human trafficking and all that it entails. As well as short context on human trafficking, you will need to establish the specific reason you are there–basically the bill (what the problem is and how the bill will fix it). Read here about how I explained this problem-and-solution concept in terms of the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act. Basically, I told Zoe about the strength and comparative effectiveness of the Trafficking in Person’s Office in DC, yet how it is prevented from having the full capacity of impact because it is not a bureau (and thus does not have a seat at the table when State Department decisions are being made). I explained that this bill sought to promote it from an office to a bureau. It was simple and clear cut–a problem and a solution.


Screen Shot 2014-05-12 at 11.06.57 PMNow that the legislator understands the issue, you need to have him or her commit to a specific plan of action (hint: this is the reason you are there!). By doing research on the bill and where it is in the legislative process (on this website), you will know what you should ask the legislator for. It may be to cosponsor it. It may be to have them talk to the head of someone on another subcommittee to encourage that person to move it along. If the bill is in their subcommittee or scheduled to be on the floor for debate, your request may even be to vote for it. Make sure your question is direct and clear, “Can I count on you to cosponsor this bill?” If they are unable to commit at your meeting, organize a time to follow up with them.



Look towards the future. Offer yourself as a resource in case they have any further questions, but more importantly, determine when you can follow up with the legislator or an aid about your request (make sure to pick up a business card). “Can I email you in two weeks for an answer? I will be available any time for information.” Give them your own contact information and also leave them a folder with further resources (statistics that you did not have time to address in the meeting, the full text of the bill, etc). And, of course, thank the legislator for his or her time.

After you leave, shoot off an email or letter of thanks to acknowledge the time and energy the legislator set aside for you.



While you are preparing, you need to actually set up your meeting~~on the legislator’s website, there may be a section to “Set Up A Meeting” or a contact page (look for the scheduler or chief of staff). Basically, just keep sending stuff (tactfully… wait a few days between emails) until you get a response. Usually, legislators are very busy and it may take a little while for a response, but if you show your resiliency, you will likely be rewarded. Also, the legislator may be in his or her DC (or state capitol) office when you want to meet. In this case, you can either meet with a staffer (totally recommended, see below) or wait until he or she comes back to your area. Either works, it is really up to you.


I am going to include a list of more resources (some repeated from the above links), for your research pleasure. Good luck and go get involved! Politics are so much more accessible than people think! And at the end of the day, politicians want to hear what you have to say~~show the passion (but really show that you intellectually know what you are talking about) and they will want to work to put it into practice!


Find your rep: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

The 4 C’s of Lobbying:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting/sample-district-meeting-agenda-four-cs

More tips for your meeting:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting/tips-successful-meeting-members-congress

The meeting I did as an example:https://docs.google.com/document/d/1N4GSgNNZ4K93TCsJVlAWo41sBHA_VT_ZWiF3iqMTauU/edit?usp=sharing

Read the bill (if you want to lobby about the same one as me): http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:H.R.2283:@@@P

Check out how your congressperson is doing (what they’ve voted for in the past): http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/house-scorecard

ALSO COME TO THIS ADVOCACY SUMMIT:http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/action-alert/advocacy-summit-2014-action-alert

More Resources: http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/resources/resources-your-district-meeting
(a TON more resources for preparing for your meeting).

Kate Case: (to contact if you want to set up a meeting on the West Coast or just for further advice~~The first time you email her, just say that I (Izzy Ullmann) gave you her info… she’ll know who I am)
Kate Case | Regional Advocacy Coordinator, West
Government Relations & Advocacy
916.335.6934 | @IJMcampaigns


**every time I say “legislator,” this could also be a staffer~~do not be disappointed if you end up meeting with a staffer instead. They actually are the ones doing the research and passing it on to the legislators along with their own recommendations.


Senator Feinstein’s Encouragement

It is so encouraging to see that this is not a fight we are fighting alone~~we have our very own California Senator, Dianne Feinstein, marching right along beside us. She has proven that despite the polarization and political games riddling our government, progress is possible.

 Dear Isabel:

Thank you for contacting me to express your support for reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  I appreciate knowing your views on this issue, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

Like you, I am appalled that human trafficking continues to this day.  An estimated 800,000 to 900,000 persons fall victim to international trafficking each year, 17,500 of whom are trafficked into the United States.  President Clinton signed into law the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 as part of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386), thereby establishing the first anti-trafficking programs in the United States.

On December 23, 2008, President Bush signed the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act into law (Public Law 110-457) to provide a four-year reauthorization of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  I cosponsored this legislation, which also included the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act of 2007, a bill I authored to ensure the appropriate treatment of children who arrive in the United States without a parent or guardian.  I worked on this legislation for eight years in order to give vulnerable young immigrants, who are often trafficked into this country, the legal and humanitarian protections they deserve.

On March 7, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act, which I cosponsored.  You may be pleased to know that this legislation included an amendment that reauthorized the Trafficking Victims Protection Act through Fiscal Year 2017 (Public Law 113-4).  Please know that I voted for this amendment, which will provide protection for trafficking victims as well as strengthen laws that prosecute human traffickers.  It also reauthorized provisions of the Unaccompanied Alien Child Protection Act.  As a country that holds individual liberty and basic human rights as fundamental principles, reauthorizing the Trafficking Victims Protection Act affirms the United States’ commitment to combating the trafficking of women and children.

Again, I want to thank you for writing to me on this important matter.  Please know that I will keep your views in mind should the Senate consider additional legislation related to the Trafficking Victims Protection Act.  If you have any additional comments, do not hesitate to contact my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 224-3841.

Sincerely yours,

Dianne Feinstein
United States Senator

Further information about my position on issues of concern to California and the nation are available at my website, feinstein.senate.gov.  And please visit my YouTubeFacebook and Twitter for more ways to communicate with me.

Action in New York

It looks like New York is standing up as a front- runner in taking action against the rampancy of Human Trafficking that is plaguing their state. Now, the rest of the country needs to take a hint and follow in their footsteps. Read the New York Times article about the targeted court system that is being implemented.



With Special Courts, State Aims to Steer Women Away From Sex Trade

Published: September 25, 2013

New York State is creating a statewide system of specialized criminal courts to handle prostitution cases and provide services to help wrest human- and sex-trafficking victims from the cycle of exploitation and arrest, the state’s chief judge announced on Wednesday. The initiative is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation.

Eleven new courts across the state, modeled on three narrower pilot projects in New York City and Nassau County, will bring together specially trained prosecutors, judges and defense lawyers, along with social workers and an array of other services, the chief judge, Jonathan Lippman, said in a speech to the Citizens Crime Commission in Midtown Manhattan.

“Human trafficking is a crime that inflicts terrible harm on the most vulnerable members of society: victims of abuse, the poor, children, runaways, immigrants,” Judge Lippman said. “It is in every sense a form of modern-day slavery. We cannot tolerate this practice in a civilized society, nor can we afford to let victims of trafficking slip between the cracks of our justice system.”

The new Human Trafficking Intervention Courts will handle all cases involving prostitution-related offenses that continue past arraignment, Judge Lippman said. Cases will be evaluated by the judge, defense lawyer and prosecutor, and if they agree, the court will refer defendants to services like drug treatment, shelter, immigration assistance and health care, as well as education and job training, in an effort to keep them from returning to the sex trade.

The new program is in some measure modeled after specialized courts for domestic violence and low-level drug offenses. They are intended to end the Sisyphean shuffling of victims of trafficking through the criminal justice system, a process that fails to address the underlying reasons for their landing in court — or on the streets — in the first place, the judge said.

The initiative comes at a time of growing consensus among criminal justice professionals across the country that in many cases it makes more sense to treat people charged with prostitution offenses as victims rather than defendants. It is a view that is in some measure born of an increasing focus on the widespread trafficking of under-age girls; women typically enter prostitution in the United States between ages 12 and 14, Judge Lippman said.

That consensus was reflected by some of the people who joined Judge Lippman for the announcement. There were district attorneys from across the state, including Cyrus R. Vance Jr. from Manhattan, Richard A. Brown from Queens and Daniel M. Donovan Jr. from Staten Island; Kathleen M. Rice from Nassau County, who heads the state’s District Attorneys Association; Steven Banks, the Legal Aid Society’s attorney in chief; and Lori L. Cohen, director of Sanctuary for Families’ Anti-Trafficking Initiative, a leading advocate for trafficking victims. Representatives of some of the dozen other service providers involved in the new program also attended.

The consensus was also reflected by three laws passed by the New York Legislature in recent years, including the Anti-Human Trafficking Act, which criminalizes sex and labor trafficking; the Safe Harbor for Exploited Children Act, under which anyone younger than 18 who is arrested on prostitution charges is treated as “a sexually exploited child”; and a law that allows trafficking victims to have their prostitution convictions vacated.

The new courts, one in each of New York City’s five boroughs and six others situated from Long Island to Buffalo, will all be functioning by the end of October, Judge Lippman said. They will handle 95 percent of the thousands of cases each year in which people are charged with prostitution and human trafficking offenses.

Other cities across the country have special trafficking courts, including Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; Phoenix; and West Palm Beach, Fla. A law that took effect this month in Texas requires the largest counties to start prostitution diversion programs, and Connecticut has two courts that deal with so-called quality-of-life offenses, including prostitution.

But New York State’s new courts, Judge Lippman said, represent the first statewide system to deal with human trafficking.

He said setting up the courts would require minimal to no additional spending because the system would simply be handling the same cases in a more creative manner. He said there would be more costs to the service providers, which are financed largely by government grants and private sources, but he could not provide a dollar figure.

Mr. Banks, of the Legal Aid Society, said in an interview that the new system was “an extremely important step forward nationally” to set up courts where people accused of prostitution and prostitution-related offenses can be connected to programs that offer what he called “a pathway to change.”

“It’s certainly critical that underlying all of this is the concept of providing a helping hand rather than the back of a hand,” he said. “Survivors of trafficking are left with literally an indelible scar in the form of a criminal record that affects employment, housing, financial aid for college and government benefits and even the ability to stay in this county.”

The approach being tried in New York, he added, “can give human trafficking survivors a second chance in life.”

Taking it to Congress

In the quest to end human trafficking, advocacy and raising awareness are always important elements. Rehabilitating victims is essential. And prevention is crucial. Yet one cannot forget the legal angle. Political leanings and frustrations aside, our government does have significant power in working to combat human trafficking, domestically and abroad.

The Office to Combat and Monitor Trafficking in Persons (TIP Office) has far reaching impact. It extends grants to organizations and governments seeking to curtail human trafficking. It establishes, funds, and works to implement anti- trafficking models worldwide. Furthermore, it publishes an annual TIP report, ranking 180 countries on their efforts to address human trafficking and slavery. The report gives the US diplomatic leverage to encourage other nations to amp up their resources in fighting this rampant crime.

At the size that it is, the TIP office has an incredible amount of impact. It is the United States’ most important diplomatic resource in the eradication of modern day slavery. It is able to support NGOs with about $22 million a year, in their efforts to free slaves, aid victims, prosecute perpetrators, and build sustainable systems of justice to discourage further trafficking. However, as the TIP office is a office and not a bureau, within the State Department, it is hampered in its outreach. Ambassador Luis CdeBaca, who directs the Office does not have direct access to the Secretary of State. The Ambassador and his staff are the government’s leading experts on slavery, but they are currently left out of some of the most pressing decisions. For example, when anti-trafficking “tier rankings” are determined for the TIP Report,  political considerations sometimes outweigh a countries true anti-trafficking efforts.

The office of the State Department which has the most knowledge and understanding about modern day slavery needs to have a voice when important decisions are made. The office is responsible for the voices of millions of the most marginalized people on the Earth. It needs to have more political clout.

And this is where legislation comes in. Earlier this year, Representative Christopher Smith proposed the Human Trafficking Prioritization Act, a bill seeking to simply elevate the TIP office to the status of a bureau. This bill, H.R. 2283, is budget neutral and would add no more staff members. It would simply raise the Trafficking in Persons office to a place of priority, and give it equal footing in the major decisions regarding modern day slavery.


Now this is where my lobbying comes in. As a representative of the International Justice Mission, I met with Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren to advocate her co-sponsorship of this bill. She has done tremendous work so far against human trafficking, co-sponsoring a multitude of trafficking- related pieces of legislation, including the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Acts of 2007 and 2008. I assumed that co- sponsoring this bill would be a no- brainer for her, as she had been so active on past efforts against trafficking.

In our meeting, she was receptive, engaged, and obviously passionate about the issue. However, she was less readily on board with the bill than I expected her to be (judging by her co-sponsorship and voting record). As she is friends with the Ambassador, Luis CdeBaca, she seemed to have an insiders look on it– and she quite blatantly said that he’s never complained about an inability to be present at major decisions or anything of the sort… By her knowledge, he was perfectly content with the TIP office staying an office. But she also committed to speaking to him about it and doing outside research to form a more informed opinion (which gave me hope). So… it was positive, but not as positive as I’d anticipated. I recognized that choosing to co- sponsor a bill is not simply as easy as supporting the issue that it pertains to. The inter-weavings of Congress are so much more complicated than I had pre-judged.

Despite my unsureness about her decision, I was overjoyed to receive an email that she has indeed spoken to the Ambassador and has decided to co- sponsor the bill–  SUCCESS! Until she had spoken to me, Zoe Lofgren had not even heard of the bill. After talking to me she was an informed inquirer. And a few days later, she was a full supporter. When raised, are heard.  I was able to bring awareness to a women who has the power to enact change. It is that sort of connecting and passing on of information that is instrumental in being an abolitionist against modern day slavery.

To sign a letter appealing to Congress to pass this bill, visit http://freedomcommons.ijm.org/action-alert/ask-congress-pass-human-trafficking-prioritization-act.