Vol. X, No. 4
The Right to Write
Some Suggestions on Writing Your Congressman
Surprisingly few people ever write their congressman. Perhaps 90 per cent of our citizens live and die without ever taking pen in hand and expressing a single opinion to the man who represents them in Congress -- a man whose vote may decide what price they will pay for the acts of government, either in dollars or in human lives.
This reluctance to communicate results from the
typical and understandable feelings that congressmen have no time or inclination
to read their mail, that a letter probably won't be answered or answered
satisfactorily, that one letter won't make any difference anyway. Based
on my own ten years' experience, and speaking for myself, I can state flatly
that most of these notions are wrong:
Mail to today's congressman is more important than ever before. In the days of Clay, Calhoun, Webster and Lincoln congressmen lived among their people for perhaps nine months of the year. Through daily contacts in a constituency of less than 50,000 people (I represent 10 times that many) they could feel rather completely informed on their constituents' beliefs and feelings. Today, with the staggering problems of government and increasingly long sessions, I must not only vote on many more issues than early-day congressmen but I rarely get to spend more than 60 days a year in Arizona. Thus my mailbag is my best "hot line" to the people back home.
Here are some suggestions that apply to all congressional
In the course of my years in Congress I have received every kind of mail imaginable -- the tragic, the touching, the rude, the crank; insulting, persuasive, entertaining, and all the rest. I enjoy receiving mail, and I look forward to it every morning; in fact my staff people call me a "mail grabber" because I interfere with the orderly mail-opening procedures they have established. Whatever form your letter takes I will welcome it. But to make it most helpful I would suggest these "do's" and "don'ts".
My list of "don'ts" would include these:
The complexities of the legislative process and
the way in which bills change their shape in committee is revealed by a
little story from my own experience. One time a couple of years ago I introduced
a comprehensive bill dealing with a number of matters. I was proud of it,
and I had great hopes for solving several perennial problems coming before
Congress. However, after major confrontations in committee and numerous
amendments I found myself voting against the "Udall Bill."
It is now September 1971, approaching the half-way point of the 92nd Congress. Before 1972 is history the House clerk will record my votes on more than 250 issues. But in a very real sense these will not be "my" votes alone; they will be yours too. There are more than 500,000 Americans in the 2nd Congressional District of Arizona but when the clerk calls the roll he calls only my name. Thus these 250 votes I cast will speak for you in the decisions our country must make in the next two years.
I need your help in casting these votes. The "ballot box" is not far away. It's painted blue and it reads "U.S. Mail."
Some of you will recognize this newsletter. Since I first sent it out in January 1967 I have had calls from around the country and have supplied thousands of reprints. A sizeable number of civic, business, veteran and labor organizations have asked for permission to reprint it in their own publications. All of this demonstrates, I think, a need for this kind of fundamental guidance and people are hungry to receive it. So in view of the fact that a quarter of America's families move each year -- many from state to state -- and the continuing growth of interest and participation in the governing process, I thought perhaps this re-issue might be timely. Thanks. --Mo
Additions to My Mailing List
Through the past 10 years my newsletter mailing
list has grown from a few hundred to over 25,000. For the most part these
additions have been made in response to requests from constituents who
have heard about the newsletter from their friends. I would be pleased
to add the names and addresses of any others who may be interested in receiving
my reports. If you are not now on my mailing list or have a friend you
would like to add, please write me or fill out and mail the coupon below:
Congressman's Report Main Page