Cease and Desist letter from Senator to constituents

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson doesn’t like being bothered by his constituents. He’s sent a letter to an activist group telling them that they may only contact his office by writing, that they may not call or visit his office, that his office has “done all we can to assist you with your concerns,” and that if they don’t stop bugging him, they will “contact the United States Capitol Police and report your noncompliance.”

I’m going to assume for now the letter’s not fake; please correct me if I’m wrong.

His irritation is understandable: he’s staked out a political position that he believes is correct, and he’s not going to change it because people keep telling him to, so he sees these contacts as pointless and harassing.

But this can’t possibly be a legitimate demand, can it? I mean, I doubt he’s breaking the law by threatening to call the po-po on his constituents, but surely contacting your representative has the highest level of constitutional protection?

Is there any ambiguity at all here?

First Amendment — “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

It depends on what the “petitioners” are doing. If they’re calling him repeatedly every 20 minutes, or try to barge into his office at all hours of the day/night, then they can be asked to cease and desists. All rights have limits. You don’t have a right to stalk your Senator.

IOW, without knowing the details of the situation, it’s impossible to tell whether the Senator is in the right or not.

Since he is leaving open the option to write to his office, does that satisfy the petitioning the government for redress of grievances?

What does it even mean to petition for redress of grievances? The implication seems to be that I have the right to complain to my congresspeople about things that bother me, but could a hardliner take a stance and say they only want to hear from people who have gone to court and gotten a ruling that they now want or need the government to enforce?

But remember, as some Reagan-era nabob informed us, that it’s just an amendment.

That we are in an era where the highest elected officials in the land think they can dictate such things is… (frantically thumbs through thesarus)… I’ll get back to you.

It sounds sort of like a denial-of-services attack. According to this article, some liberal group is trying to overwhelm his office phone system so they can complain that he doesn’t respond to phone calls.

Sort of like going to a town hall meeting and trying to drown everything else out with chanting so you can condemn him for not answering questions.

It’s stupid, but whaddya expect?


Oh those damn liberals. It HAS to be because they want to be assholes, not because they feel the appointment of DeVos is a horrible thing. In fact, they’re doing it to the Democratic Senator from Wisconsin too!

And only allowing people to keep and bear flintlock firearms satisfies the Second Amendment.

I know this is a joke, but I’d love that sort of limitation on the second amendment.

It’s not a joke. It’s pointing out that since the First Amendment does not specify people have the right to telephone their representatives, then the idea that only allowing the People to write letters meets the letter (heh) of the law is valid. Thus, only firearms covered by the Second Amendment are flintlocks (percussion arms did not invented yet) would also be a valid interpretation. I know you know that’s what I meant, but I was being serious.

There are many limitations on the Second Amendment, but that’s a subject for another thread.

Until sanctuary cities for gun owners start to spring up.

They’re assholes who feel the appointment of DeVos was a horrible thing, so they are trying to crash the Senator’s phone system so they can complain about it.

No they aren’t. They’re only assholes to people they disagree with, obviously.

If you have a point, next time try to include it in your post.


I’m fairly certain that there’s some level of repeated contact that should qualify as harassment. I don’t think we have enough information to know whether this particular case is.

So, the letter is not necessarily absurd or unreasonable.

It does make me think that our phone system is so antiquated and dumb. Like, the solution to someone calling you a bunch of times should be to filter calls from certain numbers directly to voicemail where they can be ignored at your convenience. But there’s no good way to implement that.

Well, write, or travel to visit by horse or boat, I presume. . . Or send the footman with a daily card. . .

If the issue was that some group was holding sit-ins in his office, or similar types of civil disobedience, I’d say that’s the sort of behavior that should be out of bounds.

But threatening civil action to stop people from calling their elected representative? Even if it is a lot of phone calls, I don’t think such a threat is justified.

I think this is a similar type of civil disobedience as a sit-in. A sit-in prevents someone from doing anything else until he or she agrees to your terms. These clowns are trying to prevent him from using his phone system.

It is like the heckler’s veto. “No one else is going to be heard except me.”


There’s plenty of evidence that opposition is organized. IN a democracy, being organized is a virtue, not a vice.

There’s zero evidence that people are trying to engage in a denial-of-services. The article’s evidence is a tweet saying “RT if you think @SenRonJohnson needs to answer his damn telephone about supporting #DeVos.” IOW, asking him to respond is, in this Orwellian view, an attempt to prevent him from responding.

DOS attacks are prenicious because they’re fake: the zombie computer isn’t genuinely wanting the services of a website, it’s pretending to, so that people who genuinely want the services of a website can’t obtain them.

Here, constituents genuinely want the services of their senator. The fact that they’ve organized in no way makes them a DOS.

I hae to say, I was not expecting anyone to defend his approach. The political correctness of the right-wing, willing to call the cops on voters for daring to call tehir senator, is worse than I expected.

The only quote about the groups intentions is from the Senator himself.

The only quote from One Wisconsin Now about contacting Senator Johnson was

Strangely enough, Senator Baldwin has received a lot of calls lately too.

The offices for Senators Ernst and Grassley were also overwhelmed by phone calls, emails, and letters during the DeVos nomination. It’s been a very hot issue in the Midwest. Johnson built up a strawman, and you’re busy beating the snot out of it.

Huh? A US Senator has a phone system so simple that he doesn’t have a separate line or ten that he and staff can use to handle their business?

All his constituents are doing is tying up the telephone lines set aside for contact with those constituents. Sure, those who support his vote on DeVos can’t call in with an Attaboy, but isn’t that how it’s supposed to work – the communications of the many in opposition can outnumber those of the few in support?

Why can’t it be both?

O course the appointment of DeVos is a horrible thin and it’s one of dozens of horrible things that Republican lawmakers are helping Trump do. That does not give a person the right to engage in behavior that crosses the line from “petition” to “harassing, stalking, and engaging in deliberately disruptive behavior.”

Now, whether that is happening in this case is not clear. It MAY be that the Senator is merely a butthurt Trump enabler. It may be that this particular group - he’s not sending this letter to everyone, just one group - really are being assholes. But while I don’t know which it is, the latter is clearly something that can happen, and that’s not a “right.”