Oakland Tribune
Alameda Times-Star

Tuesday, June 12, 2001

Grass-roots lobby raises voice in D.C.

By Lisa Friedman

WASHINGTON — Nothing high-priced about these lobbyists. Not a $500 suit or a lapel pin in the bunch.

This group, all sports jackets and polo shirts and long hair pulled back in barrettes, gathered around a conference table in California Sen. Barbara Boxer's office Monday, surrounding themselves with handwritten notes and reams of statistics on AIDS, tuberculosis and world hunger.

Their goal: ending poverty.

RESULTS, an international nonprofit group, may not have the muscle of corporate cash. But with one of the more intense lobbying groups on Capitol Hill, it manages to live up to its name.

On Monday hundreds of members, including about 15 from the Bay Area, fanned out among House and Senate offices pushing their agenda: increases in Head Start funding, $200 million for international tuberculosis control, and $2 billion to fight the global AIDS epidemic.

"We know that we need an outraged spokesperson who sees the danger of seeing these diseases spread," Lynn Patalno of Palm Springs told two of Boxer's staff members. It was one of several meetings RESULTS had scheduled that afternoon, all in the hopes that its policy wish-list will rise above the hundreds that come through congressional offices each lobbying season.

"We'll help you build public support for it," Patalno promises.

The road for poverty and global health organizations this year looks to be a steep uphill climb. While President Bush recently announced his support for an AIDS prevention trust fund to be managed through the World Bank and pledged $200 million, activists fear that money will be siphoned from existing programs. And the signing last week of a $1.35 trillion tax cut over 10 years makes official what lawmakers have been telling their constituents for months: Despite the surplus, new money for local initiatives and pet projects just won't be flowing out of Washington.

With about 120 chapters in the United States, Canada, Australia, Japan, German and the United Kingdom, RESULTS' lobbyists work on entirely volunteer basis and paid their own way to Washington, D.C., this week.

Some — like Chris Gilbert of Oakland, a computer consultant who works from home — have flexible schedules that allow time for activism. Others squeeze it in between jobs as teachers, HIV counselors, software developers and engineers.

Susan Oesher, a retired preschool teacher from Oakland, said she was attracted to the organization 15 years ago by what she felt was a clear focus on teaching citizens to become effective activists.

"Do you ever read the paper and the news services and watch television and feel like nothing happens and nothing helps? This opened a window," Oesher said of RESULTS. They've had some good results lately, too. Last year Boxer managed to secure $60 million in funding for tuberculosis prevention and treatment — in part, aides said, because of activists' persistence.

"Calling other members, writing letters, typical grass-roots lobbying," said Boxer spokesman David Sandretti, explaining how the group worked. "That's very effective. Obviously, when a group comes from California all the way to Washington to press their case, that says an awful lot about their commitment to an issue. You can tell when you get the handwritten letters and the personal phone calls. Those things make an impact."

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