June 9, 2005 | By Matt Zimmerman

Lobbyist: Will Travel

How much impact can citizen lobbyists have on the legislative process? Plenty, says Warren Stewart, Director of Legislative Issues and Policy for Vote Trust USA, who generously, breathlessly, called to share his thoughts in his three free minutes between lobbying meetings.

"I've been genuinely impressed by the quality of the work and the effort that volunteers are putting into these sessions," said Stewart, who had already met with staffers for Republican Representatives Steve King (IA), Christopher Shays (CT), Fred Upton (MI), Thelma Drake (VA), and John Doolittle (CA). "And it makes a difference. Some members, like Steve King, have publicly recognized the need for [transparent voting] in the past. Others may be dealing with the issue for the first time. Either way, it's useful for them to see the level of interest and concern that all of us are bringing to these sessions."

Stewart, a California resident, believes the wave of volunteer lobbyists is having an impact. "This is, in some ways, the ultimate express of democracy, and it shows the power of constituent lobbying. It's useful to participate in the normal ways -- calling or writing letters and e-mails -- but it says something when a citizen gets on plane and flies to Washington to let members of Congress know what he or she thinks," he said. "So far, staffers have been incredibly receptive. Most have been very informed, they've asked great questions, and they've shown a real concern about this issue."

Break's over, Warren. Get back to work...

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