Education vs. Lobbying

​AmeriCorps members – while you are in service hours representing AmeriCorps, you cannot participate in lobbying or partisan activities[1]. We do, however, want to encourage you to educate local legislators and government officials about your year of service. The following is an outline explaining the difference between lobbying and education.

Education (appropriate):

Education is providing basic information about a particular organization or issue. Education gives information about who is affected, number of people served, budget or proven impacts and accomplishments. Education does not provide value judgments or ask people to take a particular stance. Activities that can be considered education are:

  • Inviting legislators to visit your site and get firsthand knowledge of your service and its impact
  • Providing a fact driven pamphlet to the public about a particular topic
  • Giving a fact driven presentation about a topic to a legislator
  • Creating a video with a client about how THEY have benefited from a particular program

Education can be influential, but it cannot be perceived as being persuasive to a particular piece of legislation.

Review our tip sheet on how to effectively inform others about AmeriCorps!

 

Lobbying (prohibited):

Lobbying is any attempt made by a party or person to influence legislation. Influencing legislation includes persuading legislators to propose, pass or defeat legislation or change existing laws[2].

Activities that can be considered lobbying are:

  • Contacting government officials, members of congress or employees of the legislature to affect legislation including letter writing campaigns, phone calls or face to face meetings
  • Writing legislation or suggesting legislation
  • Lobbying the public
  • telling the public a particular piece of legislation is good or bad
  • suggesting public vote one way or another on a particular referendum or initiative
  • suggesting the public support or oppose a political candidate

This is not to say that you are barred from these activities on your own time. But since all of these activities would be on your own time, you cannot gain service hours, mileage reimbursement or any other benefits attributed to your service. In addition, when participating in any lobbying or partisan activities you cannot state or give the perception that you are representing AmeriCorps, including wearing any gear.

 

Examples of lobbying vs. education:

Jane emails the following to her clients:
“Recently, Senator Henry Thatcher co-wrote legislation that would allow tobacco vending machines into our public schools. He states that this is a necessary measure to raise revenue for our elementary schools. This is ludicrous and will surely result in the creation of thousands of new under aged smokers! That is why we are urging you to vote no on HR 2126 and keep our children healthy.” This is lobbying; it is asking for direct action to be taken about a particular bill, and is prohibited.

Jane gives a presentation that includes the following:
“The American Cancer Association has given evidence that there is a 50 percent increased risk of developing bone, lung, breast and prostate cancer in lifelong smokers than in non-smokers. In Skagit county 20% of smokers are under age 18.” This is education; it is fact driven and impartial. It does not ask listeners to take a particular stance. This is allowed.

Jane meets with Senator Edwards in his office and says the following:
“If you vote yes on bill HR 2120 and reduce funding for nutritional education, millions of children will not have access to healthy food choices. Please vote no.” This is lobbying, she is asking the Senator to take a particular stance.  This is prohibited.

Jane invites Senator Edwards to the 8th annual Healthy Kids Block Party organized by the Cowlitz County Committee to Prevent Childhood Obesity. She introduces him to some of the clients:
“Senator Edwards, this is Antonia, Ricardo and Felicia. They were enrolled in the farm to school program. Fifty percent of this program’s funding comes from government sources. During my program year we were able to provide a total of 60 families with 250 pounds of fresh produce. Fifty of these families live in regions without access to a green grocer.” This is education, the senator is provided with data based results.  This is allowed.

A client complains to Jane about the recent hike in bus fair. Jane responds:
“You should vote for Senator Smith. He wants to lower the price of bus fair.” This is endorsing a particular candidate and is prohibited.

 

[1] http://www.americorps.gov/pdf/07_0214_eisner_lobbying.pdf  accessed on 9/29/2012; edited on 2/14/2007

[2] IRS Reg. 56.4911-2(b)1(ii)