For many years, Concerned Women for Americas (CWA) Legislation department has offered a program called Project 535.Named for the 535 members of Congress, its a monthly event during which CWA members travel to Washington, D.C., to serve as volunteer lobbyists and voice the concerns of like-minded individuals directly to congressional offices.
CWA Legislation staffers meet regularly with offices on Capitol Hill, so it makes a difference when our members visit.The fact that they represent tens of thousands of CWA members in each of the states makes congressional offices take notice and truly listen.There is a tendency, many believe, for those inside the Beltway to become engulfed by the D.C. Bubble and lose touch with the America outside of Washington.Thanks to Project 535, lawmakers are reminded that they are representing actual people, not just working for themselves.
Project 535 lobby days are usually held the fourth Wednesday of each month.Before the lobby day, members are sent the legislative topic and information for offices which CWA allocates as targets.Members set up their meetings beforehand, travel to D.C., and have a legislative briefing over breakfast at the CWA national office.They then move on to either the Senate or House of Representatives and have their meetings with congressmen and/or their staffers to discuss the legislation at hand and communicate whether or not CWA members support the measures, oppose them, or have specific concerns.
On February 24, 2010, CWA focused its Project 535 lobby day on the topic of tax measures that greatly impact Americas families and are set to expire this year.Members were briefed on the adoption tax credit, which helps adoptive families with the steep costs of adopting a child; the child tax credit, which alleviates some financial pressure from families with children; and the death tax, which is a controversial tax that leads many small businesses and farms to be sold just so heirs can pay the large taxes after their family members death.
CWAs 535 lobbyists met with dozens of Senate offices and, overall, received positive responses from staffers.Although volunteers sometimes meet with the actual Senator or Representative, it is often more productive to meet with a congressional staffer, as that individual gives direct input to the congressman about legislative priorities.During the February lobby day, CWA volunteers reported that several offices expressed their firm commitment to extending the child and adoption tax credits, and to lowering the death tax.
Project 535 is a unique program in that it creates lines of communication that flow from the grassroots level straight to the federal level.After lobby days, volunteers submit reports to the CWA Legislation department detailing how the meetings went.Those reports are then forwarded to the appropriate CWA state leader who is then able to see how their Senators and Representatives responded to various issues and may then server as a point of contact for those congressmen on behalf of the state.From there, state leaders forward information to local CWA leaders and members, who also contact the congressional offices to thank them for their positions on legislation or to encourage them to consider CWA members concerns.
The true key to having a voice in Washington, D.C., is a national presence backed up by an army of individuals at the grassroots level.This is what makes CWA stand out as a success in fighting battles in D.C. for traditional values the fact that CWA National represents half-a-million people around the country who vote.
For more information on Project 535, please click here.