Advocates travel to nation’s capital for Consumer Lobby Day

Published: Tuesday, June 05, 2018

In May, months of planning and coordination paid off when over 100 consumer groups and allies descended on Washington, DC, for Consumer Lobby Day, sponsored by the Consumer Federation of America and other groups, including Consumer Action.

Attendees arrived at the nation’s capital a day prior to the scheduled Lobby Day in order to attend an all-day training on how to effectively lobby their members of Congress on timely issues of impact to consumers.

During the training, speakers from many consumer advocacy groups, including Consumer Action’s deputy director of national priorities, Ruth Susswein, presented attendees with updates and in-depth information on pressing issues, like the struggle to protect the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) public consumer complaint database in the face of attacks from its temporary acting director, Mick Mulvaney, who was appointed by President Trump. Susswein also encouraged fledgling public-interest lobbyists to fight to protect the CFPB’s consumer protection mission as well as its independent structure and funding.

In addition, experts updated attendees on the CFPB’s payday lending rule (which at the time was under attack by some in Congress, who were threatening to overturn it, but has so far remained intact due partly to Lobby Day efforts). Payday loans often carry interest rates of 300%-plus and trap consumers in a spiraling cycle of debt that is difficult to escape. The consumer lobbyists were encouraged to share personal stories, relate their own in-state efforts to combat predatory lending and other marketplace abuses, and present testimonials from the consumers they represent during meetings with their legislators.

The training also provided attendees with “Ten Tips on Lobbying,” including having a specific and direct “ask” (e.g., “we want a strong, independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau”); staying focused on your agenda during the meeting; bringing brief but impactful materials that you can drop off with legislative aides; and following up with thank you notes and reminders about any commitments that may have been made during the meeting.

“There’s no experience quite like Consumer Lobby Day; it teaches consumers through ‘real world’ training to become comfortable with speaking to our representatives and their staffers face-to-face,” said Consumer Action’s Lauren Hall, who met with the offices of four members of the House and Senate over the course of the day. “Lobby Day also provides a great opportunity for advocates to connect with others working on the same issues or in the same state. When you walk in to your legislator’s office with other knowledgeable activists working on the same issues, you not only learn from them, you realize just how much power you have in numbers and how much your representatives really are listening to what you have to say!”

Consumer Action will be sending out an alert you can use to write Congress about current anti-consumer legislation and other anti-consumer efforts in the near future. Meanwhile, check our Take Action Center for current alerts you can send.

 

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