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I have just been reading smintheus's fine FP diary Dodd on FISA . . . ..  Please read it if you have not done so thus far.
Besides a paean to the courageous leadership of Chris Dodd and the influence of the common man and woman, the diary encourages us to contact our Senators, especially the Bush enablers, and request that they vote "no" on cloture on the FISA bill.

What was remarkable, but not surprising, was the number of commenters who relayed arrogant, negative or disinterested responses from the staffer who answered the call.  Do these people even get an hour's worth of training on how to deal with constitutents?  Any receptionist in a business who would treat a client, customer or general caller with disdain would be fired in a New York minute.

Here are some examples of responses:
Mark Pryor's Office

I am from Arkansas so I'm a constituent of his. I posted this comment in the other thread down the page, and I'm reposting it here to see if anyone else had a similar conversation.

The phone-answerer started chuckling and laughing at me like I didn't know what I was talking about. He said, in a condescending tone of voice, "Oh that vote last week was just a procedural vote on the Judiciary bill, it wasn't the final bill and there is still a lot to vote on ..."

I cut him off and explained that I knew what it was, and why the Judiciary bill was important. I also told him "I don't imagine you're getting a lot of calls today from people wanting their Constitutional rights to be violated, and to give Bush and the telcos immunity, so I hope the senator will stand for the people and the Constitution this time."
He chuckled some more. God I hate calling Pryor's office. He's a disgrace.

h/t Pompatus

Barbara Mikulski's Office

Called Mikulski who is one of my senators.  Registered my desire for her to vote against cloture.  The person answering the phone seemed completely uninterested.  I asked her what Mikulski was going to do and she said she didn't know. When she was about to hang up -- I said I was surprised she didn't want my name and address.  She sighed (so put-upon) and said, "okay, what county do you live in" and when I told her my name, I knew she hadn't written it down since she didn't ask for the spelling (and my name is damn hard to spell!).
Not a good sign.

h/t Tamar

Barbara Boxer and Diane Feinstein's Offices

Just called both the CA senators (after calling the posted list), whose staffers both said their bosses hadn't expressed intentions, though Boxer sounded like, "I just don't have the information on hand at the moment" while Fienstein sounded more, "I don't think she's made up her mind."

I don't know if she's expressed her intentions elsewhere, and if not, whether or not you want to add her to the list.

h/t HamillionActor
My response to this one:

For staffers not to know the intentions of their Senators on the most critical vote of this term which is happening today is utter bullshit.  Either they are badly hedging or they should find a job where curiosity and competence are not required.

If staffers are projecting disdain, indifference or arrogance -- it tarnishes the Senator or Representative whom they represent.  I have called Congressfolks' offices to offer thanks for stands they have taken on various issues.  Most often, the response is barely tepid and clearly not interested in what I think.

Chris Dodd's D.C. office has great staff for phone calls.  I am curious now.  What has been your experience?

Originally posted to gchaucer2 on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:36 AM PST.


My expereince talking to my Representatives' offices has been

11%6 votes
35%18 votes
33%17 votes
19%10 votes

| 51 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Hate to admit it (17+ / 0-)

    but my best call was with Rep. Poe's (R-TX) office re: the KBR rape case.  I called to thank him and the young man on the phone was not only polite, but spent several minutes with me.  I identified myself at the start as a non-constituent and Democrat.

    My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. Barbara Jordan 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:38:15 AM PST

    •  To be honest Geoff (8+ / 0-)

      I've known a lot of Congressional Staffers over the years and I have a lot of sympathy for them.  Most are making $20k a year working 60-70 hour weeks.  

      In years past, talk radio, blogs, and other interests groups doing the 'call your rep.' campaigns have diminished the real value of these phone calls.  They get these calls all the time, most of the callers are overzealous asses who aren't even constituents.  

      I have a friend who called me up and asked me if I knew what DailyKos was, I said well yes I've been on that site since 2003.  She works at NARAL and someone on this site got pissed about some endorsement that they made and posted the phone number.  She said that the phone kept ringing off the hook, and the vast majority of the callers were nasty to her, calling her a traitor, Bush-enabler, etc.

      So I guess I can understand their side, though I don't think its wise of them to be rude.  But imagine that your day is filled back-to-back, minute to minute phone calls from people who are mad at your boss and maybe after a while you get a bit jaded.

      Lord, I will be happy when the primaries are over.

      by TX Dem in DC on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:49:30 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  You are one of the most generous diarists here. (0+ / 0-)

      You, more than anyone else on my diary watchlist, forward people to worthwhile diaries and stories that you feel are more deserving of their attention than your own.  Without your urging, I'd never have read them, especially the IGTNT diaries.  Thank you and keep up the good work.

      "Iraq: the bravest 1% fighting for the richest 1%." ~ An Unknown Kossack.

      by Neon Vincent on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:26:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mikulski Office Experience-Do You Think We Care? (12+ / 0-)

    Wrote them an email regarding an issue.  Response was a form letter addressing issues that I hadn't brought up.  
    So I called up her MD office about it, tried to get someone to listen, was told I couldn't speak to anyone and they wouldn't return my call.  Asked if I could leave a message, and the response, I kid you not, was "Do you think we care?"

    I'm sorry. I'm so sorry -Dr. Who

    by SteamPunkX on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:41:50 AM PST

  •  I voted pie... (9+ / 0-)

    I usually e-mail Landrieu's office, that way I don't yell obscenities into the phone.

    I also e-mail Vitty-cent, because I don't have the stomach to talk to the dirtbags that work for him.

    funkify your life...

    by YatPundit on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:43:52 AM PST

  •  Based on staffers I knew personally (8+ / 0-)

    for years before they took their jobs...I would say, anecdotally, that the answer to the topic is "both."

    "You want to live in this world the way it is? No? Then do something about it!" --Celes Chere, Final Fantasy VI

    by BlueEngineerInOhio on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:45:10 AM PST

    •  Much depends on the Congressperson or Senator (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      as to who works for them.  Some hire top quality people, and some hire people who think just like them, and some hire jerks.

      The strong, self confident ones have top aides who really know their stuff and who can argue policy before decisions are made.

      Sen. Inhofe hires flatlanders like himself.  There are many other examples.

      Anyone answering the phone or emails or faxes is almost certainly at the bottom of the office pecking order.

      Also, there are the Committee staffers who work for the House and Senate Committees, who tend to be top quality and strong on issues.  They don't answer phones and they do the heavy lifting on research and writing bills.

  •  Eh (7+ / 0-)

    my experience with staffers is that while there are some very good ones, the vast majority are even more arrogant, petty, and self-important than you'd think. I've dealt with a fair number of state level staffers over the years, and I can count the good ones on one hand. The bad ones seriously usually annoy me more than the politicians themselves do.

    Apologies to any good, normal, down to earth staffers reading this. I know y'all exist. If only there were more of you.

    •  That came out (2+ / 0-)

      maybe pissier than I intended.

      To be fair, a lot of them put up with a lot of shit. I know, for example, that one state level politician who will remain nameless used to berate his/her staff up and down consistently for such grave offenses as forgetting to refill the candy bowl on the front desk.

      Still, on the balance, I've had a huge number of bad experiences, and that tends to negatively color my view.

  •  Bayh's office (6+ / 0-)

    is horrendous.  Their response today was simply that he had not decided nor had he made any comments to the press.

    On a separate issue, the staffer who read an email I sent saw a buzz word that was tangentially related to the issue I was writing about and sent me the form letter response to the buzz word.

    I wrote back to complain about the inattentive canned response.  They wrote back immediately...with a canned response!  Argh!

    You are not only responsible for what you say, but also for what you do not say.

    by MLDB on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:48:03 AM PST

    •  This: (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      karenc, SteamPunkX

      Their response today was simply that he had not decided nor had he made any comments to the press. not the staff's fault.  If their boss won't tell them his position, they can't relay his position to the public.  

      As for the canned responses, I think the average Congressional office gets about 3,500 communications a week.  They usually have one legislative correspondent, and maybe three legislative staff who respond to correspondence along with their work on legislation and staffing the member or her committees.  The choice is form letters or falling so far behind in correspondence that maybe 90% of the mail never gets answered.  

      The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

      by Dana Houle on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 10:43:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  asdf (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    joe shikspack, gchaucer2

    Maybe some of these calls should be posted on youtube (after letting the staffer know they are being recorded).  I wonder how long some of these staffers would have jobs after their bosses heard how they treat the voting public.

    * 3933 *

    by BDA in VA on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:48:40 AM PST

  •  They're Almost Certainly Not Staffers (8+ / 0-)

    They're interns.  The Congressional staff alotments, adjusted for inflation, haven't increased since the 1970's.  However, during the same time the volume of constituent communications has increased about seven-fold, and congressional districts have probably 100,000 or more additional people than what they had back then.  Technology--computers and voice mail--have probably helped offset this a bit, but the reality is that Congressional offices have to rely on interns a lot more than they did in the past.  And almost everyone who answer the phone is going to be an intern.

    The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

    by Dana Houle on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:48:57 AM PST

    •  Point taken, however (4+ / 0-)

      as they are representing the office, the are "staff" in a sense.  I interned for NRDC years ago and knew that I was considered a "public" face or voice of the organization.  Interns should realize that their effectiveness or non effectiveness will reflect back on them.

      Thank you.

      My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. Barbara Jordan 1974

      by gchaucer2 on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:51:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  look at some of the newbies on dKos (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Remembering Jello

        since the primary season kicked into high gear.  They don't care a lick for what the bile they spew does to the overall impression that others have for their professed candidate.  Particularly in Republican offices, I can see that type getting a job answering phones.

        funkify your life...

        by YatPundit on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 10:02:49 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I Know They're the Face (4+ / 0-)

        But the leverage you have with them is less, the vetting process less certain (because you usually have to pick them based on just an academic record, a letter and a phone interview), and you have to throw them in to the deep end the day they start.  And often, it's their first real work in an office.  Plus, probably a 1/3 of the people who call a congressional office are difficult to deal with, and young inexperienced people will sometimes get complacent and expect everyone to be difficult and treat people who aren't being difficult with a diffident or dismissive attitude.  

        I'm not excusing any of it.  But I don't think it's a particularly accurate reflection of an office-holder or the rest of the staff, especially when you consider the volume of communication that comes in to a Congressional office, and the attitude of a significant portion of the people who contact the office.

        Also, if you want to get a good sense of craziness, read the mail and listen to the calls that go to a Congressional office.  There are lots of people who think aliens talk directly to them, and share that communication with Congressional office.  Probably more than once a day someone who is absolutely batshit crazy, just insane, gets an intern on the phone.  

        The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

        by Dana Houle on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 10:02:51 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  One Other Thing (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          slinkerwink, gchaucer2

          The Senate offices are fairly nice and spacious.  But anyone who thinks that Congressional offices are palatial has never been in a Congressional office.  People are often shocked at how many people have to work in such a small amount of space, especially the offices that typically go to Freshmen, like some of the cubbyhole office in the Longworth building or those on the fifth floor (aka "penthouse") of the Cannon building.  Freshmen dorms have about as much space per person as the smaller offices in Longworth and Cannon.  And only the most senior members ever make it to the nice House offices in the Rayburn building.  

          So, on top of everything else, sometimes you have those interns sharing a desk.  Literally, sitting on opposite sides of one desk, because that's all the room there is in the office.  

          The revolution will not be televised, but we'll analyze it to death at The Next Hurrah.

          by Dana Houle on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 10:22:43 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  wow, that makes a lot of sense... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Remembering Jello

      particularly in the Republican offices.  A newbie would be much more likely to openly mock a caller with whom they disagree.  They're to green to realize that even they have something to lose by being rude to callers.

      funkify your life...

      by YatPundit on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 10:01:22 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Mikulski of Maryland (3+ / 0-)

    I got a letter from her office from the previous rounds of the Bills that Dodd successfully pushed until this week.

    Basically, she said she supports the Intelligence  Committee bill because it's a matter of "national security" and if the bill doesn't get approved it will expire and we'll all be at the mercy of the "terrorists".

    Ironically, this is the same answer I got from Kay Hutchinson (Repugnican) of Texas!

    Frankly I am shocked and disappointed at Babs (Mikulski). Heretofore, she's always been a good party member and supported her constituency. In this case, I believe the Telco's got to her before we did.

    We need to remind Babs that Telcos might buy votes but they can't vote and WE DO!

    "What a peaceful world it would be if Barbara had aborted!"

    by DevonTexas on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 09:57:22 AM PST

  •  Corporations own this collection of clowns. (0+ / 0-)
  •  Congressional staffers responses and demeanor (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Rolfyboy6, gchaucer2

    reflect the attitudes of their employers.

    You can learn quite a lot about whether your Congresspeople really care about serving the public who are their employers or care only about serving themselves and their campaign contributors without even talking or communicating with that person.

  •  The first time I called Senator Durbin's office (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    gchaucer2, Praisegod Barebones

    regarding this issue I was put through to one of his staffers and he listened intently to me, asked questions and actually agreed with what I was saying.  I called again last week and this time the woman on the other end of the phone could of cared less what I had to say.  I explained I lived in Illinois and she still didn't care.  So either his staff has changed or they have been told to be less accommodating.

    The first thing lost in war is truth.

    by KatHart on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 10:04:11 AM PST

  •  Staffers (0+ / 0-)

    have concerned me for some time now. What do we really know about these people?  Senior staffers can have a lot of influence on our Senators and Congressmen.  How do we know if these people are on any one else's payroll or not?  How easy would it be for some organization to get or buy influence by slipping in staffers?   Shouldn't there be rules and background checks and public information about the staffers available to the public?

    •  Actually, I wouldn't want (0+ / 0-)

      the staffers to be held to a different standard as the rest of us.  I wouldn't want my background info out in the public.  They do have a lot of influence, but so do a myriad of other people.

      My faith in the Constitution is whole, it is complete, it is total. Barbara Jordan 1974

      by gchaucer2 on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 10:09:59 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  i'm fairly certain (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      that there are background checks.  There are certainly ethics rules that apply to staff as well as members.  what kind of public information are you looking for?

    •  Staffers (0+ / 0-)

      Well then I think that anyone who has "a lot of influence" on our representatives needs to be looked at carefully just as we need to be aware of lobbyists. Staffers have as much or more influence and should be watched, especially in this age of dirty tricks and unethical behavior.  Most of us are unsatisfied with the way our representatives are representing us, maybe there is another reason for this, maybe big business and other lobbyists have infiltrated the staffers?  Don't say it can't happen, of course it can.

  •  former staffer here (8+ / 0-)

    Phone training in my experience is often minimal, and it's always the lowest on the totem pole (super -new staff or interns) who work the phones. Especially when there is huge volume of calls on an issue, people often get flustered.  No one should be rude to you, obviously, but it's quite possible that on the other end of the phone is a 19 year old on his or her first day on he job.

    As for writing your name down, many offices keep tallies rather than just names, especially on a call-in day. So that in itself doesn't mean your response is in the garbage.

  •  I hate to be the odd man, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DHinMI, karenc, Noisy Democrat

    but the offices I'm most likely to contact have generally been pretty friendly and competant.

    Then again, my residence is in MA-01 ( Kerry, Kennedy, Olver), and my business is in VT (Sanders, Leahy, Welch), so I'm usually calling to say " Thanks!"- They're all pretty much allright.

    OK- I admit it... I'm representationally spoiled.

    Stranger than fiction? At this point,the truth is stranger than japanese cartoons...

    by Remembering Jello on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 10:31:12 AM PST

  •  my senators (0+ / 0-)

    always give the phone answering to the biggest jerks.  the first thing i say is "i am a regisgtered voter in texas, and a taxpayer, so...just listen."  

    they're still jerks, but, they GET IT up front.  by get it i mean they GET the fact that i'm not going to put up with attitude when I'm paying the bill!

    works too...they backpedal or shut up real quick.

    i would rather live on my feet than die on my knees -- emiliano zapata

    by labwitchy on Mon Jan 28, 2008 at 11:22:03 AM PST

  •  My choices are (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Noisy Democrat

    Chris Dodd and Joe Liebermann.

    I'll just let you guess what I think of their respective office staffers.  And you probably won't be too far from the truth.

  •  this diary is pretty slim having trouble writing? (0+ / 0-)

    something original? and in your own voice?

    Hillary: "Wait a minute... Wait a minute... Let's have a reality break!"

    by Palladio on Tue Jan 29, 2008 at 12:21:24 PM PST

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