To read Part 1 of this political thriller, just click on my name or this link:
I called 20 or so Senate offices on the Monday and Tuesday prior to my trip. I explained that I would be in DC on Thursday and Friday, delivering information on electronic voting machines to as many Senate offices as possible in that time. If the senator was a sponsor or cosponsor of one of the voter-verified paper audit trail bills introduced in the 109th Congress, I asked if I could make an appointment with the appropriate aide to discuss expectations for the 110th. Otherwise, I said I would like to be able to put the material directly into the hands of the aide responsible for the issue and take a minute to walk them through the information. I made a point of clarifying that I had little to recommend me in terms of political clout, as I was not one of their constituents (except in Dole’s case), did not represent any organization, and was not even a Democrat/Republican.
Sometimes the person who was responsible for directing traffic to the appropriate aides apologized for not knowing who was responsible for the issue of electronic voting machines; I assured them they were not alone and explained that this was one reason for my trip...to increase awareness of the issue. When I was referred to a specific aide, I was sometimes able to speak to the aide then and there, but, in most cases, I had to leave a voice mail message. Roughly 1/3 of the aides with whom I left messages returned my call. Of the aides with whom I was able to speak before leaving for DC, most either scheduled an appointment with me or told me to drop by any time during my visit and ask for them.
I was able to make appointments with the staff of six Senators:
Hillary Rodham Clinton (D, NY)
Tom Coburn (R, OK)
Richard Durbin (D, IL)
Elizabeth Dole (R, NC)
Dianne Feinstein (D, CA)
Jack Reed (D, RI)
My original plan was to work late finishing up my notebooks on Tuesday night and depart at a leisurely mid-morning hour on Wednesday. This would leave me with plenty of time for the 5-hour drive to DC, arriving before rush hour to check into my hotel and have a nice dinner before turning in early for a good night’s sleep. Then I would be ready to get up bright and early Thursday morning.
When one of the legislative aides returned my call early Wednesday afternoon and asked politely how I was, I laughed. "Just great for someone who was supposed to be on the road four hours ago."
Around 6:00 PM I finally threw everything "as is" into the car and headed toward DC, arriving at my hotel around 11:00 PM. I was delighted...and amazed...to discover that their business center offered free copying! Gee, did they ever live to regret that. I stayed up all night, doing more notebooks and running their toner cartridge dry as a bone. So I did indeed get an early start on Thursday morning, LOL. Bright, I’m not so sure about.
A little before 8:00 AM I loaded a bunch of notebooks into one of those big file boxes on wheels and hopped into a cab. "To the Senate!" I cried, "And make it snappy!" (OK, so I didn't really say that, but I've always wanted to.)
Coming soon, or whenever I get around to it: Part 3, where I do what I came to do...