By Ann Riley
Try bird-dogging -- following candidates around from one event to another to "set
the record straight" on their exaggerated claims. It's an easy and effective way to
rain on anti-environmentalists' parades. It lets you go where the TV cameras are, instead
of trying to lure the cameras to you. And it lets you weed out the true environmentalists
from the fakes. Here are a few things all birddoggers should keep in mind:
Do your homework. Credibility is a bird-dogger's best friend, so back
up all claims with specifics. Voter charts, documentation of polluter-PAC contributions,
and examples of environmental violations are valuable tools -- as long as they're
Plan ahead. A "hit" on a greenscammer is apt to be more
successful if you team up with other environmentalists. Use e-mail, fax and other
communication tools to get the word out, notifying activists when a candidate will be in
town. Provide them with information and questions they can use to hold the politician's
feet to the fire. Other advance work can include sign-making, building your phone tree and
fax list and encouraging others (including members of the media, if possible) to let you
know of upcoming candidate appearances.
A picture is worth a thousand words. Seize photo opportunities by
employing a mascot or "schtick." During Oregon's special Senate election in
January, Sierra Club bird-doggers showed up with "Tommy the Toxic Waste Drum"
wherever Republican candidate Gordon Smith turned up -- a graphic reminder to voters that
Smith not only voted against the environment routinely as a state senator, but had
illegally dumped toxic waste from his food- processing plant into a nearby stream.
Bring handouts. Come with a press release or fact sheet for reporters
and voters; you can have a general release ready and insert specifics as the event nears.
This is especially useful if you're birddogging a variety of candidates, or following the
same greenscammer around to a variety of locations.
Be creative and have fun. Have some chants prepared, and don't be
afraid to make some noise. You won't always feel like chanting, but it's often the thing
that gets in the way of the politician's wellcrafted soundbite. Some suggestions (make up
your own for extra credit):
"Clean water, clean air, [Politician] doesn't care!" "[Politician]
doesn't give a hoot, he pollutes!" "[Politician], get off the polluters'
dole!" "[Politician}'s a phony -- takes polluter PAC money!" --
Grassroots Volunteer Coordinator
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