Engaging in D.C.

Are you planning to visit D.C. and your Congressional representatives?

 

President Stanley

MSU President Samuel L. Stanley Jr., M.D. spent the day on Capitol Hill. Pictured with                                                                      U.S Representative John Moolenar and U.S Representative Elissa Slotkin

The MSU Federal Relations is team is available to advise and help guide your engagement with policy makers in Washington, D.C. Whether you are visiting D.C. for the first time or you are an advocacy veteran, we encourage you to call on us as a trusted institutional resource as you plan and strategize an effective method for approaching federal lawmakers and Executive branch officials. In addition to our primary role of representing the priorities of the university in our nation’s capital, we can assist you in crafting messages, assessing the political landscape, and facilitating engagements that are critical to supporting your goals and MSU’s broader strategic advocacy agenda. Wherever feasible, we seek to promote a seamlessly aligned message that is critical to furthering the broad interests of the university, faculty, students, and research enterprise.

  • Visiting D.C.

    If you are planning an advocacy day on Capitol Hill, have been invited to testify before a congressional committee, will be presenting as part of an association education session, or any number of other opportunities that may be available in our nation’s capital, we encourage you to connect with the MSU Federal Relations team prior to your visit. You are welcome to call our office directly at 202 678-4000 or email the office manager to set up a meeting well in advance of your planned visit to Washington D.C.

    *Due to the unique circumstances of the COVID19 pandemic - including public health concerns, the current ban on visitors to the U.S. Capitol, and current MSU policies barring most university-sponsored travel - the MSU Federal Relations team is not currently facilitating in-person advocacy opportunities. However, on a case by case basis and as appropriate, these engagements may be shifted to a remote platform. 

  • Engaging on Capitol Hill

     

    Logistics:

    There are three primary House office buildings and three Senate office buildings on Capitol Hill. If you are visiting as part of an association-sponsored hill day or an MSU-supported hill day, the schedule of your visits will list the location of each of your meetings with a building name, room number, and name of the staffer and/or Member included.

    • Allow sufficient time to pass through security when you enter the House and Senate buildings. Once you are inside, you can travel by underground hallways to other House buildings without needing to go through security again. The same is true for travel between Senate buildings.
      • You may also traverse between the House and Senate by underground tunnel by way of the “appointments desk.” However, this is not advisable unless you are very familiar with the layout of the Capitol complex or accompanied by someone who is.
    • In the House office buildings, the first numeral in the room number corresponds to the building, the second to the floor, and the third and fourth to the room. Cannon is represented with 0, Longworth with 1, and Rayburn with 2. For example, room 122 is on the first floor of Cannon, while room 2310 is on the third floor of Rayburn.
    • Arrive at the Member’s office five minutes early. Since distances between and within the Senate and House office buildings are great and navigation within buildings can be confusing when not lead by a member of the MSU Federal Relations team, make sure that you begin your walk to the next meeting as soon as possible.
    • Check in with the staff member at the front desk. Most House offices are relatively small, so your group may have to wait in the hallway.
      • In some instances, during very busy times of the year, staffers may request that you meet with them while standing in the hallway. While not ideal, this is normal practice and does not reflect the value or importance they are placing on your meeting.
    • Once you are in the office, look around. Members may have items in their office that will allow you to make a connection and start a conversation.

     

    Meeting Basics:  

    Please consider the following to help guide your expectations for meeting with Members and their staff on Capitol Hill:

    • Punctual and Patient: Be sure to arrive for your meeting a few minutes early and check in with the front desk to let them know you have arrived.
    • Prepared to Wait: Sometimes Members or staffers are detained by some other business, such as other meetings running over or unanticipated committee or floor votes. If the meeting is cancelled at the last moment, check with the scheduler before you leave to try to reschedule your meeting. If the Member of Congress or appropriate staffer cannot reschedule, you may consider leaving behind informational materials with the scheduler or front desk.
    • Preparation is key: Capitol Hill meetings generally last between 15 and 30 minutes, depending on how busy the Member and/or staffer may be.
      • Bring business cards and be prepared to offer them at the beginning of the meeting.
      • Plan on completing your presentation in 5-10 minutes and focus it to allow for plenty of time for dialogue and questions during and after.
      • If you are coming as a group, decide ahead of time who will handle each part of the presentation. Make sure everyone understands their roles before you arrive.
    • Consider the Ask (if appropriate): Members of Congress and their staff are generally very pragmatic. They want to know what you want them to do and why they should do it. After introducing yourself, it is advisable to make clear the purpose of the meeting at the outset.
      • Many university-sponsored meetings are “educational” in nature and therefore may not include an “ask.” Be sure to establish the goals of the meeting and whether it is appropriate for an “ask” ahead of time.
      • Importantly, if there is an “ask” for an official action and your trip is sponsored by MSU, this is considered lobbying activity and you will need to consult the MSU Federal Relations team on how to appropriately report it. Please refer to the “Lobbying Disclosure Act Guidance” section for more information.
    • Parochial Priorities: The primary focus of any Member of Congress and their staff is to represent the best interests of their state or district. If possible, try to demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the Member's constituency.
    • Use Simple, Concise Language: Researchers are often more comfortable with data, analysis, and communicating to an academic audience. But for a political audience that generally does not have a scientific background, we suggest using simple language and personal anecdotes - supported by credible data – to effectively communicate complex concepts, which can help frame the issue and give it a human dimension.
      • Consider examples that are easily repeated and easily understood by a wide range of audiences, if possible.
    • Engage in conversation: Use your best judgment when offering an opinion, but be very careful not to offer "factual" information unless you are certain that it is accurate.
    • Be Honest: If you are asked a question for which you have no answer, don't hesitate to say so. You can offer to do some additional research and provide that information later.
      • Importantly, if you are asked a question about an MSU position on an issue that you are not prepared to answer or don’t feel comfortable answering, refer the questions to the MSU Federal Relations team.
    • Concluding the Meeting: Once you've made your points and answered any questions, the Member and/or staffer may signal the end of the meeting. At this time, be sure to thank the Member/staffer for taking the time to visit with you and for their support of an issue (if applicable).
      • Additionally, use this time to offer any "leave-behind" materials and offer to provide any follow-up support or information. The staffer will most likely serve as your primary source of contact for subsequent emails/calls.
    • Follow-up: Follow-up your visit with a brief thank you note reiterating your main points; thank them for their time; and offer your assistance as needed. Enclose/attach any additional information or materials that were requested or promised to the Member and/or staff. While hand-written cards are a nice touch, they are not required, especially as all “snail-mail” entering the U.S. Capitol undergoes a security screening process that will delay delivery and may damage physical mail. An e-mail to the staffer(s) with whom you met or who helped you to set up the meeting is sufficient, along with appropriate follow up materials.

    Remember that your involvement is important and that these meetings, while often brief, can make a significant impact on furthering your advocacy goals along with those of the university.

  • Information for Students and Staff

    Campus Free SpeechMichigan State is wholly dedicated to freedom of speech, not just as a public institution, but as an institution of higher education.

    Participation in Partisan PoliticsAs citizens, the faculty/academic staff members of Michigan State University have the same rights and responsibilities of free speech, thought, and action as all citizens of the United States. Their position, however, imposes special obligations, such as emphasizing that they are not institutional spokespersons, and exercising appropriate restraint.

    Use of facilities for political activities - As a public institution serving and supported by all the people of Michigan, MSU must take extreme care to avoid political favoritism and improper partisan activity. In order to meet these dual public responsibilities learn more about the University's policy on the use of facilities.

    How to find your legislator: Are you looking to find who represents you at the state or federal level? Visit Michigan's Secretary of State website to find links and a helpful search engine to identify your elected officials. 

  • Lobbying Disclosure Forms