How to Contact, and Research, Your Elected Officials

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“A popular government without proper information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy – or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance; and the people who mean to be their own governors, must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives.”
– James Madison, Letter to W. T. Barry, 1822

"One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors. The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men [/women].”
– Plato

WE HAVE TO PATICIPATE IN OUR DEMOCRACY, AND WE HAVE TO TEACH OUR STUDENTS HOW TO DO THE SAME. WE ARE THEIR EXAMPLE.

Advocacy Requires Effort
Learn how to get in touch with your federal, state, and local elected leaders. Representatives pay attention to in-person visits to their offices, calls, emails, social media, and etc. While face-to-face conversations and calls are always the best methods of addressing your concerns with elected officials (https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/us/politics/heres-why-you-should-call...), emails and social media are better alternatives than choosing no method of democratic participation at all (https://autisticadvocacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/fact-sheet-email...).

Sign up for your representative’s e-newsletter or postal mailing to receive regular updates, invites to local events, and information about their activities.

Common Cause
Here you can find your Federal and State Elected Officials, contact information, bills they've introduced, committees they serve on, and political contributions they've received (http://act.commoncause.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sunlight_advocacy_li...).

Democracy.io is a new tool to put you in touch with your members of Congress—with as few clicks as possible. You can email your two senators and representative through a single website. Submit one message—not three.
• Democracy.io - https://democracy.io

Resistbot.io is a free service that turns your texts into a formal letter, and then faxes it to your elected officials. You get a copy of the letter, and a notification when the fax goes through. Although it takes its name from the idea of “resisting” the current administration, it’s a straightforward tool that you can use to voice your opinions, no matter what they are.
• Resistbot.io - https://resistbot.io

Get in touch with your federal, state, and local elected leaders at USA.gov (https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials). ** I'm hoping this tool improves over time - it didn't work well for me.

Find out where your representative stands (and who/what they stand for).
• Voter's Edge - http://votersedge.org/il

Review their voting history.
• Vote Smart - https://votesmart.org

Research their biggest campaign contributors.
• Open Secrets - http://www.opensecrets.org
• Illinois Sunshine - https://www.illinoissunshine.org

Open States offers a collection of tools that make it possible to track what's happening in our state's capitol.
• OpenStates - https://openstates.org/il

MapLight tracks several data sets that you can search for evidence of money's influence on politics.
• MapLight - https://maplight.org
• Congressional Bills - Bills paired with contributions, positions taken by special interests, and vote results (http://maplight.org/data/passthrough/#legacyurl=http://classic.maplight....).
• Legislators - Profiles of elected officials with campaign finance statistics (http://maplight.org/data/passthrough/#legacyurl=http://classic.maplight....).
• Campaign Contributions - Top contributions from major donors to congressional politicians (http://maplight.org/data/passthrough/#legacyurl=http://classic.maplight....).
• Lobbying - See how much money companies and interest groups spend trying to influence lawmakers (http://maplight.org/data/passthrough/#legacyurl=http://classic.maplight....).
• Bulk Data Sets + APIS - Use MapLight's data for your own research or software project (http://maplight.org/data/passthrough/#legacyurl=http://classic.maplight....).

Track dark money in US elections.
• Dark Money Watch - http://www.darkmoneywatch.org
• Open Secrets - http://www.opensecrets.org/dark-money
Disclosure requirements mandate that direct political expenditures must be reported to the Federal Election Commission (FEC). However, expenses by Dark Money groups that are earmarked as educational or membership building fall outside of these requirements.

Set up a Google News Alert — for example, “Rep. Bob Smith” — to receive an email whenever your representative is in the news
• Google Alerts - https://www.google.com/alerts

View the Political TV Ad Archive.
• Political TV Ad Archive - https://politicaladarchive.org
The Political TV Ad Archive collected political ads in the 2016 election. In addition to tracking airings across key primary states, the collection includes ads that may air elsewhere or exclusively on social media. Political ads broadcast 375,350 times over 26 markets.

Politwoops tracks deleted tweets by public officials, including people currently in office and candidates for office.
• Politwoops - https://projects.propublica.org/politwoops

Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) search tool allows users to look up the lobbyists registered under the FARA, the foreign interests they represent, and their meetings and other contacts with government officials.
• FARA - https://www.opensecrets.org/fara

More research tools are available at Sunlight Foundation (https://sunlightfoundation.com/2016/11/01/sunlight-labs-update-nonprofit...).

Write a Letter to the Editor (https://www.amnestyusa.org/files/pdfs/howtowritelettertotheeditor.pdf).

Millions of Americans are rising up across the country to protect our democratic values. By using the tools listed above, and by teaching others how to use them, you can join the ranks of those who are committed to a democracy that works for all of us.