bird-dog (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.
When to bird-dog
You are likely to find your member of Congress at home in state or “in district” while Congress is in recess, as in August, and sometimes on weekends or during other local events. There are ways to discover when and where you might find your senators or representative making a public appearance:
Tips for successful bird-dogging
Be assertive. Members of Congress have very busy schedules and usually take only 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 to talk to your representative. A quick question during a meet-and-greet session or other public appearance also is effective.
Be polite. Constituents that are rude or insulting will not be taken seriously by most people, nor have their questions answered by the member. It is possible – and necessary – to be assertive and polite at the same time!
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 an elected official to respond to an important issue on the record. The longer your explanation or comment is, the easier it is for a politician to dodge your question.
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. If you feel like your representative didn’t answer your question, politely ask it again.
Learn what important questions Public Citizen Activists are asking their members of Congress now.
Share your experience
Public Citizen and others are interested in what you learned from bird-dogging your members of Congress. Can you videotape or record your bird-dogging? You may share your experience and tips for bird-dogging by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by posting a comment on our Watchdog Blog.
If you’d like more information, please contact Glenn Simpson at email@example.com (please put “bird-dog” in the subject line).