Writing letters/emails to your representatives in Congress

Has anyone done this? Does anyone do this regularly? I never have, but this whole bailout business has got me fired up about how my generation is going to get screwed YET AGAIN by an older generation ever willing to mortgage our future. I’m drafting a message to my representatives urging them not to rush into anything and to at least require these company executives to return the millions of dollars in buyouts and bonuses they were awarded for their mismanagement.

Is it worth the effort? What kind of response have you gotten (if any)?

I wrote a letter to the editor of a reputable newspaper, the letter was published and I sent the printed editorial page to the Senator’s office with a note… I recieved a personal, signed reply from the Senator.

Sure, you can always send an email that might be read by congressional staffers, but if you want a speedy and authorative response I suggest you write a letter and print it in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or other newspapers.

Ultimately, you might get your published letter entered into the Congressional Record.
Good luck.

I sent an email to one of my US Senators within the last year, and though it took a while, I did receive an email response which seemed to be much more than a form letter in that specific items I brought up were addressed in the answer.

In general, though, I write to them all the time in my mind, but the letters hardly ever make their way into either an email or an actual USPS letter. It’s apparent to me I’m much more eloquent in my own mind :o

I wrote to Sen. Harry Reid about my inability to obtain Health Care coverage in Nevada that led me to move overseas (where I have been for more than 6 years). His office called me by phone in Prague and we spoke for nearly 45 minutes. I was happy to receive a call from someone very close to him, but I still don’t have any way to get insurance back in the US.

I teach my government kids that if they really want a response, they should 1) write a letter to their Congress-critter, and 2) follow that up with a visit to said critter’s nearest office.

Any idiot can bash out an email, and most do. To get attention you have to deal with real mail and personal contact. Although getting printed in the NYT certainly helps! :smiley:

Personally, I respect the way Dianne Feinstein and her staff deal with things. When my Mom had an insurance problem, Feinstein’s staff was all over it at once. Barbara Boxer, OTOH, is a waste of space. We got a note from her 6 months after the whole thing was settled.

I do it regularly. Email is easiest, but also easiest for them to ignore. Phone calls, paper letters, and faxes require a minute or two more effort but are much more effective.

As for response, paper letters or faxes with my mailing address attached usually get a form-letter response - “Thank you for contacting me on this issue, here’s my position, blah blah blah.” Emails sometimes get a similar, emailed response.

Phone calls are generally handled by low-level aides. Usually they’ll ask what issue you’re calling about, ask for your zip (to confirm you’re a constituent), and presumably write down what you say. I have in the past gotten a slightly more personalized letter from a representative in response to a phone call, with a sentence thanking me for being an “active participant in the government”, which was cool.

Go for it. The worst that happens is…you spent ten minutes sorting out your position on an issue and get no response. But I’d like to think that they pay at least some attention to feedback from their constituents.

ETA: It’s nice if they’ll try, but your congressional representatives aren’t really there to try to solve problems on a personal level. They’re supposed to represent your voice on the national level. Calling for nation-wide insurance reform, yes. Helping you get a claim approved is a nice bonus if it happens, but it’s not their job.

I’ve sent emails and called my Democratic congressman and emailed my Republican Senator. Both have responded. I also visited my congressman’s office in DC in June and talked with an intern there.

I also emailed Harry Reid, but didn’t hear back (although I was not expecting a response).

A well thought out hard copy letter carries the most weight from a constituent, short of a personal visit. However, if you plan to write/post the letter, make sure the original goes to their local office and not the one in Washington, DC. Since the anthrax mess several years back, all congressional mail goes through several screening processes and severely delays your letter. The last I heard it was on the order of six weeks, or more.

On occasion if I get an email alert about some issue that’s important to me I’ll go to the website that has the form email to send to your reps. I’ve gotten form emails back as responses. Maybe once in my life have I actually printed out a letter and mailed it. I would do it more and in my own words more but I’m lazy :rolleyes: I don’t think I would ever call though, that would just be awkward.

I have absolutely written my representatives, both State and U.S. I find it very interesting to see who responds and in what ways. On the latest issue, my state representative not only wrote back, but had a staffer call to follow up. Does he have my vote? You betcha.

OTOH, when I have written my national representatives, Senator Cornyn sent a standard form letter and added me to his e-mail list. I’m already seriously unimpressed with Cornyn anyway, and had I thought of voting for him ever again, that would have swung the balance. Senator Hutchinson responded with a letter, and did not put me on her e-mail list.

I also wrote Tony Blair a letter some years ago, and was surprised and pleased to get a response from him that was far more personal than the response I got to a letter I wrote Bill Clinton while he was in office.

I realize these men and women are fantastically busy, and I don’t necessarily expect a response to every letter I send. I do, however, appreciate it when I get one that’s not obviously a canned response, and I loathe being added to e-mail lists without my consent.

Form letters /e-mails/faxes mean as much to Congresscritters as the effort it takes you to send them. In other words, not much.

Much more effective to make a phone call (if it’s urgent), or write a letter.

Understand that for a U.S. Senator or Representative the letter will not be read by the actual Congressperson, and unless this is an obscure subject, will probably not even be read by the policy staffer for that issue. So don’t worry about being super-eloquent or covering every possible argument; you’re not convincing anyone, just registering your opinion for a poll. Mentioning a particular bill number or other key detail will help show you’re informed and may give your letter a little more weight. Also, if you are politically active (run your neighborhood watch, or are active in political campaigns, especially that Congressperson’s), mentioning that will also give your letter a little more weight. It will be read by an actual person (even if only an unpaid intern), so be polite, and keep it short (some offices make the intern retype the entire letter).
For instance:
"Dear Senator Bedfellow: I am writing to express my support for the bill (number S. 1234) to create a National Opus The Penguin Day. In fact, I urge you to enact even stronger measures to honor one of our nation’s great treasures, such as the proposal to issue an Opus dollar coin. In these trying times, nothing is more important to this country than the relief of humour, and Opus is one of our greatest examples.

As a constituent who has supported you with yard signs and get-out-the-vote efforts in the past, I thank you for your attention.

Now, a printed Letter to the Editor is even better. But that’s a whole different beast entirely.

I’m a member of the National Association to PROTECT Children (www.PROTECT.org) and have written and faxed numerous legislators at the state and Federal levels for various campaigns.

As an example, one of the reasons that California finally repealed its incest exemption for child rape is because we made it into a national campaign. Once letters and faxes started coming in from all over the country telling the California legislature they had a duty to punish rapists who grow their own victims as severely as those who rape a stranger’s kid, it created enough pressure that Carole Midgen dropped her opposition and allowed it to move forward to a vote, where it passed overwhelmingly.

I’m also an avid shooter and gun rights supporter and have written just as many letters over the years for that cause as well.

I don’t usually get responses from legislators outside of my state, but it’s a definite help for average citizens to weigh in on issues. There’s an old saw about one letter being equivalent to 10 phone calls when it comes to influencing votes on legislation.

I emailed Senator McCain today and will call his office tomorrow. I’m truly ashamed of him right now.

I know the campaign is different than his service as Senator. But, my comments have been telling him that it is ok for him to stay on the campaign trail. The people of Arizona don’t need you on the Senate floor right this second.

My representative is dead.

I saw this just yesterday, and was considering starting a thread about it, even. Here’s an excellent primerin writing to congress. Several of the comments are helpful, as well.

As has been said, for maximum impact, nothing beats an actual, personal letter.

I have written to members of both state and federal parliament on quite a few occasions.

Yes I have. No response has ever answered what I wrote in concern of. The responses were on average two pages long, and never addressed the issue. I assume they think two pages of not answering your concern, will trick most people into seeing what they want in the letter, and go good that’s taken care of. Writing letters to the officials will get you crap for their party even if they’re not your party. It takes me about a year to get off the mailings when I tell them to stop mailing me stuff. Good luck, and watch the response closely to see if you even get an answer or wiffle waffle. Unless you meet with the representative in a scheduled meeting, you get nowhere.

Many of the articles I’ve read about Congressional resistance to the bailout plan mention the large number of citizens contacting their representatives to complain. That’s heartening news.

I have, but not often. A couple of years ago we asked our rep to intervene in my wife’s immigration process to get it moving again, and got the help we asked for. I’ll also send the occasional letter on an issue that is personal or affects me directly. Once I got an actual response, the rest of the times I just got the good old form letter response.

I sent a letter entitled “PA is letting it’s Guard down” which asked for an explanation for why my GI Bill was being delayed upwards of 8 months. I made sure to detail the groundwork I’d already done on it, including my calls to the VA and the conversations with the peons in the VA office at school. I included their words of “soldiers shouldn’t count on that money.” I sent it to my state rep and senator. I got an email back within hours and several phone calls from a rep’s chief of staff. She helped me get things officially documented and basically lit a fire under someone’s ass. Two weeks later, I had my money.

If you’ve got a problem that’s government-related, getting a hold of your rep is easier than pie. It’s comforting to know that the gov’t still works for us.