Turning Up the Heat on Congress

The last few months — from the record rainfall in Minnesota and Florida, to the epic fires in the West, from the crop-shriveling drought in the High Plains, to the “land hurricane” that left five million without power across the East — is what climate change feels like in its early stages. We’ve heard from friends and colleagues who have fled their homes, but our leaders still aren’t connecting the dots.

It’s time to turn the heat up on Congress. As coal, gas and oil companies — the richest corporations in the world — continue to spew carbon into the atmosphere, they also get $11 billion in federal tax breaks and subsidies each year. Most members of Congress still haven’t answered the key question: Why do we continue giving taxpayer handouts to corporations that pollute our air, water and atmosphere?

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We’re planning a massive effort to go to Town Halls, Meet-and-greets, fundraisers and other public events where members of Congress are speaking, and get them on the record on fossil fuel subsidies.We’ll ask them this simple question: “Representative/Senator________, Answer the $113 Billion Dollar Question.” (That’s how much money we would save from ending fossil fuel subsidies). Keeping the heat on your senator takes more time than making a phone call, but it’s also more fun. Grab a few friends and a camera, head over to a campaign or political event where your Senator or Representative is speaking, and go get ‘em! Here are the steps you need to take to get started:

  1. On Your Marks.
    • Recruit 2-5 volunteers (friends, neighbors, colleagues) to visit events with you. Ask them if they can join you to birddog at local campaign events whenever they pop up – usually once a week or less.
    • Check our scoreboard to see if your member of Congress is on the record already, and find out how much money he/she has received from oil, gas and coal companies: http://endfossilfuelsubsidies.org/scoreboard
  1. Get Set.
    You’ll need to do a little research in order to find where your representative/senator will be during the recess. We will be doing some of our research about the events, and we will send it once it becomes available. Here are a few ways you can do this right away:
    • Check your elected officials’ websites by clicking here.
    • Check to see if there’s a calendar of events on the website, and scroll through the blog to see if in-district events are listed there. Many members will also advertise their events on facebook — find their facebook pages using our scoreboard.
    • Sign up for your members’ email alerts, which you can do through their Congressional websites. m
    • embers who are also running for office will also have a campaign email list — sign up for that, too, on their campaign website.
    • Local newspapers: Often reporters will mention any big events coming up in the local news, so read anything that mentions your senators, or search on news.google.com.
    • If you’re not seeing events on their website, pick up the phone and give their congressional or campaign office a call—and ask their staff what events are being planned in your state for the August recess. Check here to find your Member’s phone number.

3. Go.
Once you’ve found where and when the event is, make sure to get on the phone with your team member(s) and discuss who will ask a question of the senator or representative? Who will bring a camera and take the video? Who will take down notes on what the member said, and who will submit the video and report back on this page?

On the day of the event, gather with your crew an hour before the event. Make sure no one is wearing a shirt with an environmental message (keep those 350 shirts at home for once!), so that your elected official doesn’t automatically know what you’re asking before you ask it. This is the stealthy part…

Make sure the question-asker on your team gets a good seat where the member can see him/her.

      • Video: Make sure that your camera is charged up, and that your camera(wo)man has a good angle, and that he/she is close enough to get good audio.
      • Be patient. Once it comes time to ask questions–either as part of a Q&A or if the member is shaking hands and chatting with supporters–make sure to get yourself in front of him or her. Be firm, but don’t yell, and ask your question clearly and loudly. Feel free to insert the reason you believe fossil fuel subsidies should be stopped.

        “Representative/Senator________, why are we still giving $113 billion to oil, gas and coal companies in tax breaks and handouts? It’s time for that to stop!”

    • If you don’t get an answer to your question, the member denies that there are subsidies, or he/she only answers the question partially, feel free to rephrase it or follow up with clarifying questions. Make sure that you stay firm, and that you don’t let them off the hook if they don’t answer your question.
    • If you don’t get a chance to ask your question, don’t worry about it! You’ll get ‘em next time. Please still email us about your experience and send photos if you have them!
  1. Follow-up
    • As soon as you get to a place with an internet connection, come back to this page and fill out the short report-back form below, or send us a report at subsidies@350.org. Make sure to include as many details and notes as possible, and if you have video, upload it to youtube and include the link to the video in your reportback.
    • That’s it! Celebrate how awesome you and your team are, and keep an eye out for when the next event is.
    • Confused? Need help? Email organizers@350.org and we’ll contact you to walk you through this.
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