WASHINGTON -- There's no place like home, and lobbyists know it.
With Congress on summer break, Washington's special-interest pitchmen are abandoning their Capitol lunches and hallway meetings and organizing constituents in lawmakers' home districts to make their cases.
CEOs interested in trade and energy legislation schmooze members of Congress during factory tours. Truck drivers worried about Mexico and dairy farmers fretting over milk prices request private meetings back home.
Union workers seek out lawmakers at Labor Day parades, while their organizations pepper local airwaves with messages tailored to the home turf.
It's all part of gaining an advantage on issues that will dominate Congress after Labor Day.
"Members are going to get hit from all sides, presumably, while they're home during the break, and you never know what might influence them," said Carlton Carl, spokesman for the American Trial Lawyers Association, which is vigorously working for legislation to give patients broad power to sue HMOs.
The most sophisticated efforts go far beyond simply asking people to telephone their senators or representatives.
Groups use phone banks and mailings to activate members long before the summer break begins, suggesting they arrange personal meetings with lawmakers or staff, invite them to tour facilities or schedule political fund raisers. They alert members to town hall meetings scheduled by lawmakers.
Next up, the group provides talking points to their grass-roots lobbyists. The script is key to ensuring the right message gets sent to the lawmakers, said Jim Albertine, president of the American League of Lobbyists.
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