Elections, Free Trade, and Legislator
A Guide for
Animal Rights Activists
(portions of this guide were adapted from a flyer by
Citizens Trade Campaign)
With the Midterm elections coming up
and many of our Senators and all of out House Represenatatives up for
reelection, now is the perfect time to take our elected officials to task if
they voted against animals or thank them if they voted compassionately. Since the last election, members of Congress
have voted on the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement and
more recently the Oman Free Trade Agreement.
Many of those who voted for the interests of corporations over workers,
animals, and the environment and supported these disastrous agreements are
hoping the public isn’t aware of these issues or won’t remember them at
election time. It’s our job to ensure
this doesn’t happen.
Many animal organizations are
incorporated as 501(c)3 corporations, meaning they cannot work to influence the
outcome of elections. But they can
educate voters on where candidates stand on the issues, allowing voters to draw
their own conclusions. Of course, individual
members of animal groups can choose to volunteer for the reelection of
candidates 501(c)4 organizations, 527
organizations and PACs have a much wider range of options, and can explicitly
endorse and campaign for candidates.
Whatever type of organization you
have, it’s important to know what sorts of activities are legal for your
category before engaging in any sort of activity surround elections. You can learn more about the options
available to your organization at http://citizenstrade.org/pdf/advocacy_and_elections.pdf and http://www.allianceforjustice.org/spotlight/fec_prop527.pdf . One you’ve
done this, you can consider these strategies to put animals and trade on the
minds of voters and to pressure your elected officials to vote responsibly on
THE ISSUES – Read about the
impact of global trade on animals at http://freetradekillsanimals.org.
TO PUBLIC INTEREST
– Aside from
animals, there are MANY good reasons to oppose free trade agreements—environmental
concerns, national security, support for small farmers, concern for human
rights, economic impact on communities, labor rights, indigenous communities, access
to generic drugs, opposition to privatization, and more. Of course, there are many people who oppose
an animal rights agenda, but can be swayed on these arguments. Learn more about the MANY arguments against
free trade agreements at website like http://stopcafta.org, http://bilaterals.org, http://citizenstrade.org, http://sierraclub.org/trade/, http://globaltradewatch.org, http://www.globalexchange.org/campaigns/, http://www.maketradefair.com , http://www.hrw.org/doc/?t=corporations_trade, http://www.healthgap.org/camp/ftaa.html, http://www.polarisinstitute.org/, www.gatswatch.org, http://tinyurl.com/pl492, http://aflcio.org/issues/jobseconomy/globaleconomy/tradeagreements.cfm .and the satirical http://gatt.org/. If other
groups in your community , aren’t already addressing these arguments, along
with animal arguments in your campaign to increase public support. Of course, if there are groups already
addressing these points, you can choose to focus solely on the animal aspects
of the issue.
ALLIANCES – To increase
your credibility in making these additional arguments and at the same time
increase your organizing capacity by including more people in your efforts,
link up with other groups concerned about trade issues. Talk to global justice/anti-globalization
groups, local labor unions and Central Labor Councils, environmental groups (especially
Sierra Club chapters), human rights groups, anarchist and Marxist organizations,
AIDS activists, Latin American solidarity groups, Latino community
organizations, progressive church groups, fair trade organizations, Hunger activists,
small farm groups, anti-war activists,. and others.
Find out if your community already has a coalition of organizations
committed to fighting corporate globalization, and if not, build one!
POTENTIAL TARGETS – Study the federal
Senators and Congressmembers in your area.
Who is up for reelection this year?
Study the voting records of legislators in your area on recent trade
agreements at http://freetradekillsanimals.org/?page=Votes. Study local
media to find out how political analysts are calling the election. Are there elected officials who have been
consistently voted with us fighting tough reelection battles? Are there officials who have opposed us
fighting strong challengers? Are there
elected officials who have voted inconsistently who need to hear that voters
demand consistent opposition to anti-animal, anti-public interest trade
agreements? You can also contact Global Justice for Animals for advice on
strategic targets in your area.
FOR TRADE JUSTICE--– Elected official’s
voting records are a good way to find out where they stand on trade
issues. Another is to ask them to sign
the Pledge for Trade Justice. Developed primarily by Latin American solidarity
activists, this pledge asks candidates for Congress to commit to not supporting
CAFTA-style free trade agreements. .
This is helpful because you can ask challengers as well as incumbents to take
the pledge. Unfortunately, the pledge
does not directly address animal issues, but it would force legislators to
commit to oppose CAFTA-style agreements—agreements which are invariably bad for
animals. To learn more about the
Pledge, visit http://stopcafta.org/
THE MEDIA – Use the mass
media to get the word out to the public on where candidates for election stand
on trade issues. · Write op-eds and letters to the editor to bring up trade
issues and hold reps accountable for their past votes.· Call in to talk radio
shows when candidates are on the air and talk about the impacts of trade. Hold demonstrations at candidates’ offices
before and after key trade votes and announce them with press releases.
VOTER GUIDES – Even if your organization is legally unable to
endorse candidates, you can still provide voters with information on the
implications of trade votes—and how their elected officials voted on them. To learn how to do this, visit http://citizenstrade.org/pdf/how_to_voter.pdf – Distribute your voter guide through your activist networks and at cafes
and grocery stores or anywhere else you can reach lots of people. If your town
has a sizeable Latino population, make a Spanish version. You could announce
the voter guide with a press release and conference. Do outreach to local
newspapers and organizations with newsletters to encourage them to cover the
event or write a story on the impact of trade on the election. If your budget
allows, take out an ad in a newspaper or utilize bus or subway stop advertising.
LOBBYING – Lobby the candidates: Ask for meetings with all of
the candidates and use the candidate questionnaire and the candidate pledge
included in this packet . If you can’t get a meeting, distribute the survey or
pledge to all candidates and then publish the results.
SHADOWING – Everyone you
go, your shadow goes with you—and candidates with bad or unclear records on
trade issues need a shadow to remind them that just trade policies matter. Shadow candidates at parades, events,
rallies, debates – any public events where a candidate will be present. Carry
posters, wear a sandwich-board, and hand out voter guides or fliers explaining
the importance of the trade issue. Ask questions about incumbents’ fast track
votes and their stance on the FTAA and demand that new candidates take a stand.·
It is hard to figure out where candidates are going to be. Work with others to
compile a list of all the appearances you expect them to make. Some local
newspapers do this. If yours does not, encourage them to. Do outreach to
generate attendance by fair trade activists.
Approach candidates in different manners. Some are friendly and will
welcome your questions while others are evasive or hostile. With those whom you
have no opportunity to interact, leaflet and use signs or sandwich-boards to
express your opinions.· Be creative! Use street/guerilla theater to educate
candidates. Look for opportunities to get in their face and creatively
demonstrate your message.
DEBATES – Organize a candidate debate or forum. Be sure to
invite all the candidates and the media.
Don’t just send press releases—try to speak directly to political
reporters at local media and personally invite them. If they express interest in coming call any
candidates who haven’t committed to attend and tell them that. If they don’t get back to you, tell them that
they will be represented by an empty chair if they choose not to
participate. Of course, work with them
before setting the final date of the event to schedule an evening that works
for them. Put notices in events listings
in local media, send email announcements over activist email lists, post
announcements on websites like http://indymedia.org and hang
posters around your city to get the public to attend the debate. Be sure to get
a hall large enough for the crowd you hope will attend.
THE MONEY – Dig up the
candidates’ campaign contributors. With this info, you can publicize if the
candidates receive money from bad guys. If, on the other hand, a contributor is
a potential ally, contact them and ask them to use their influence to meet with
the candidate to express that fair trade is extremely important to them. Use the
following web-sites to do research:
· www.opensecrets.org ; · www.followthemoney.org ·; www.commoncause.org/laundromat ; · www.fecinfo.com (not free, but it’s good)
· www.vote-smart.org ;· www.publicampaign.org/stateresources.html (listing of state and regional resources)
COMMUNITY – You can also
use elections to increase your outreach. Bring up trade as an election issue
within your coalition and with other groups. Sponsor a non-partisan “Trade
Election Watch" party where coalition members and friends can talk about
Bush’s trade agenda and other election issues. Utilize your newsletter and the
newsletters of member groups to write about what the future trade stakes are
and keep people engaged.
ENDORSEMENTS – If your group is legally able to make endorsements
of candidates for office, you can endorse those candidates who have signed the
CAFTA pledge and those elected officials who sign the pledge and have consistently
good voting records on trade issues. A
press conference announcing your endorsement and the candidates’ commitment to
sign the pledge is a great place to do that.
FOR CANDIDATES – You can also
volunteer time for the candidates you support—staffing their offices, handing
out promotional leaflets, poll watching on election day, etc. This will help your candidate, and the
candidate will remember supportive groups when elected. Even if your group is
not legally able to endorse candidates, you can volunteer as individuals and
let the candidate and the candidate staff know that you are volunteering
because of the candidate’s stance on animal-unfriendly trade agreements.
OUTREACH – Work to
educate the public on trade issues and where candidates stand on them. Run
booths at community fairs, table at busy intersections, hang posters throughout
the district that explain the threat of free trade and where the candidates
stand.. Be sure to have materials in
languages besides English if there are large populations that primarily speak
another language in the district. If your
group can explicitly endorse candidates, let people know who they should vote
for. Otherwise, explain the issue and the candidates’ records and whether they’ve
signed the pledge and let them draw their own conclusions.
MAILINGS – You can also
mail postcards to your members prior to election day encouraging them to vote for
the candidate you support. Other
national and regional animal advocacy groups may be willing to rent their
mailing lists to you for a fee so that you will have more people to outreach
CONTRIBUTIONS – If your organization
is legally allowed to contribute to candidates for office, this is a very powerful
way to show support, particularly in close races. It’s not unlikely that your candidate is
being outspent by a more corporation-friendly opponent, so your contribution
may be greatly appreciated. Unfortunately,
the people who finance elections are the first to get an audience with elected
officials, so your contribution will increase your chances of access to the
candidate if (hopefully) your candidate is elected. Some
groups may choose not to contribute to candidates on philosophical grounds.
Unfortunately, this puts us at a disadvantage to our opponents who have no such