Sierra Club: The Planet--1996
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The Planet
Bird-doggin' 101

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 accurate.

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. Imagination counts.

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!" --

--Ann Riley
Grassroots Volunteer Coordinator


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