More than 200 students from GW, Yeshiva, Georgetown and American universities descended on Capitol Hill Wednesday to urge their representatives to pass a bill posing sanctions on a nuclear Iran.
As part of an event sponsored by GW Acting Politically for Israel, students were given advice on lobbying from Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn, and AIPAC lobbyist David Gillette before visiting lawmakers’ offices to promote the Iran Refined Petroleum Sanctions Act. The bill would punish foreign companies that sell gasoline and diesel fuel business to Iran until Iran cancels its nuclear program.
“If you live in a state or Congressional district where a member holds town hall meetings, which a lot of members do, find out when the next meeting is and send people out,” Lieberman said. “Don’t ever hesitate to organize a letter-writing or e-mail campaign.”
Lieberman said his office prepares a list of the top e-mail subjects, which will “register” with members. He also recommended students write letters to the editors of their local papers to raise awareness.
Gillette, a senior lobbyist for AIPAC – the American Israel Public Affairs Committee – told students their job was to be a “horrendous nudge.”
“Our job is to make the case,” Gillette said, advising that students treat staff members as if they were members of Congress, always thank them and follow up after the meeting.
“If we don’t follow up on the meeting, in some cases it’ll be like the meeting didn’t even happen,” Gillette said.
Junior Corey Jacobson, a spokesperson for GAP Israel, said that though the bill has garnered significant support from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, GAP Israel hopes to keep the issue at the forefront by lobbying.
“Our real goal for today was to get the House side to build enough momentum to put it on the floor for a vote by the end of the year,” Jacobson said.
Students met with more than 40 senators, representatives and staffers to discuss the importance of the bill, something freshman Jamie Albert said was a unique experience.
“I loved it. The staff members were genuinely interested in our interest in the situation, and a little bit shocked that we were all students and we knew the circumstances of the situation,” Albert said.
Junior Zach Bogner met with staff members from Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., offices and said he stressed the bill’s importance on a number of fronts.
“We expressed our views and said why they should try to pass the bill, it was really a back-and-forth,” Bogner said. “It was my first experience like this. I’ve never had the chance to speak with influential people like this before.”
GAP Israel President Eric Gallagher said he felt the event, and others like it, have been enormously successful.
“We won’t know how big of an impact we had until next week, but we lobbied on this bill in October and got four co-sponsors, including Barney Frank, D-Mass, to sign on the next day,” Gallagher said. “The goal of this lobbying mission is to get the bill up for a vote and we believe the way to do that is to get as many co-sponsors as possible.”
Lieberman, who supports the bill, said he thought the political climate was right for the passage of the legislation.
“I think the administration is getting frustrated and restless as Iran keeps participating in deceit and keeps building up its nuclear weapons program, so there’s a great interest in ratcheting up the sanctions,” Lieberman said.