Bird-Dog the New Congress! Take a look at our "How To" guide.
Bird-Dog Your Representatives
(bûrd'-dôg), v. To follow, monitor and/or seek out a subject of interest, such
as a public official, with persistent attention to get answers to questions or
influence the subject.
Bird-dogging is a
tactic that many organizations, and concerned citizens, use to pressure
public officialsto take a public stance on an issue, or to question a stance that a
candidate has already taken. It
usually consists of one or more bird-doggers who go to a public event where a public official will appear. The bird-doggers ask the candidate pointed questions
about issues they care about in order to elicit a response. Because members of
the media often attend candidate events, bird-dogging plays an important role
in getting candidates’ positions “on record.” This is a vital part of holding
politicians accountable to their constituents after the elections.
office in America is at stake. Now is the time to ask the candidates what they
are going to do about the issues we care about.
• Know where they stand. Before you bird-dog, check for the
latest information about the candidates. Have they taken a stance on the issue? The more you know about where the candidate stands the more
specific your question can be. To find out their voting record on certain
issues go to www.votesmart.org
• Be assertive. Candidates have very busy schedules and may only take a few
questions from audiences during public appearances. In order to be heard, be sure to get in line or raise your
hand immediately when it's time for questions. You also don't have to wait for public speeches or town hall
events. Try for a quick question
during a meet-and-greet session or other public appearances.
• Be polite. Most candidates will not take
rude people or questions seriously.
• Be direct. Don't give a long explanation of your question. While you will want to set up your
question, the goal of bird-dogging is to force a candidate to respond to an important
issue on the record.
• End with a very specific question. Politicians love avoiding difficult
issues, so make sure to ask a clear and specific question to ensure that they
address the issue you are interested in. Ask open-ended questions that cannot be answered with a yes or no
answer. If you feel like your
question was not answered, politely ask it again. Here are some sample
It is estimated that
lifting the travel ban on Cuba could create as many as 20,000 new jobs and over
1 billion in revenue for the U.S, and that two-thirds of all Americans
including Cuban Americans support lifting the travel ban on Cuba. Will you
support efforts in congress to lift the Cuba travel ban and work to normalize
relations with our island neighbor?
It is estimated over
600,000 U.S jobs were lost after the passage of the North American Free Trade
Agreement while two-thirds of all undocumented migrants in the U.S today came
as a result of NAFTA. In the last 2 years during one of our worst recessions
the US congress passed 3 more NAFTA style free trade deals. Now a new trade
deal is proposed under the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement including 8
pacific rim countries. How will you vote on this next new free trade deal and
will you work to re-negotiate the trade agreements we already have?
This year alone the
U.S will spend 52 billion on the War on Drugs, mostly on military aid to
corrupt foreign governments like Mexico and Colombia and on incarcerating drug
addicts here in the U.S. With this strategy we have only seen more drugs on our
streets, more drug cartel violence and more people in prison. While 20 million
Americans needed drug treatment last year and never received it. In the
next congress will you work to shift Drug War spending away from corrupt
foreign militaries and domestic prisons and spend more money on curtailing the
demand side of drug abuse by providing community services, drug treatment and
de-crimilization of drug addiction?
Work in teams of
two or more people and disperse. Bird-dogging can sometimes make people nervous
so it’s best to go in teams of two or more for support. Also, if you have two
people in a team, one can ask the question while another writes down the
response. It’s best if you can get the candidate’s response on camera, but
either way, get an accurate quote of what was said so you can pass the
information on. The website www.birdogger.org is a good place to post candidate
When you ask a
question, be prepared with a follow up question - you might just get the
opportunity to ask it. And, this way if someone else asks your question you’ll
have a backup. If you have a group of people at the event, split them up.
Dispersing at the event might allow everyone in the group to ask a question.
Keep it cordial.
You are likely to get more of a response from candidates, and make a positive
impression on the media, if you are calm and respectful in your demeanor.
Hardly anyone is 100 percent opposed to your views, so try and come up with a
compliment on a candidate’s position that you can mention before you ask your
For a list of congressional races
and how much money they have raised go to www.thegreenpapers.com
To find out who contributes to
their campaigns go to www.opensecrets.org
For Bird-dogging help contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call