I called both Senators Casey & Specter. (If you follow my Twitter feed, you’ll have read my frustration & praise.) Shortly thereafter, our phone rang and it was a phone bank system. NRA ordered up a phone bank here in Pennsylvania calling for action for both Casey & Specter on the Thune/Vitter amendment.
If you haven’t called yet, call tonight and tomorrow morning!
Just because I know you guys will be interested, I’ll tell you about my fun exchange with Sen. Specter’s office. This isn’t word-for-word, but the information is all accurate.
Intern: Sen. Specter’s Office, please hold.
Bitter: *holding* *holding* *holding* *holding* Phone dies after 10 minutes on hold. *redialing from landline* busy busy busy busy busy busy busy busy
Intern: Sen. Specter’s Office, please hold.
Bitter: Actually, you left me on hold so long before that my phone died. I’d rather not, thank you.
Intern: Uh…One second please.
Chipper Staffer: Sen. Specter’s Office, how can I help you?
Bitter: Can you tell me how the Senator plans to vote on the Thune Amendment for national reciprocity of concealed carry licenses?
Chipper Staffer: I’m sorry, the Senator hasn’t issued a statement on that topic yet.
Bitter: The vote is tomorrow.
Chipper Staffer: I can take a note for how you’d like him to vote.
Bitter: We’re two active NRA members, and we have been in touch with many sportsmen’s clubs around Bucks County about political issues. We want him to vote yes. If he does, regardless of political challenges he may be facing next year, it would make it more likely we can stand behind him.
Chipper Staffer: Okay, thanks!
Bitter: Um, I’d like a written response, please.
Not-Quite-as-Chipper Staffer: I’m sorry, we don’t offer written responses to phone calls. We just have no way to track them.
Bitter: I’m a constituent who happens to have done the Congressional internship thing a few years ago. I know you have software to do it. I know how it works.
Really-Not-as-Chipper Staffer: It’s office policy that we don’t respond to phone calls. You can mail us a letter if you want one.
Bitter: I’m a constituent, and the rest of my household would appreciate the courtesy of a response.
Definitely-No-Longer-Chipper Staffer: Look, it’s just office policy. We don’t respond to constituents who call. You’ll have to write in order to receive a written response.
Bitter: Thanks, I’ll make sure and let the other constituents know that. I appreciate the information.
Uh-Oh Staffer: Wait, I’m sorry, it really is just office policy. We just get so many phone calls. It’s very busy and we just don’t have time.
Really-Sneaky-Sounding Bitter: Well, thank you for the information about responses, I’ll make sure to share the information.
Unsure Staffer: Have a good day!?!?
I cannot believe that he set an office policy not to respond to constituents who call! The software I used when I did the internship was so easy to use. It didn’t take more than a couple of minutes to get the topic, ask if they had a bill number, get the up or down vote information, and take notes on the caller. At the end of the day, the information input from phone calls and letters was printed out, sorted, and handled as appropriate. If it was a simple “vote yes” kind of request, the staff had typically already done form letters on the relevant topics of the day for both sides. If they had, the letter was sent. If not, they would then create one. It’s really not that hard. Not to mention, it weeded out the constituent calls from the non-constituents.
On the contrary, when I called Sen. Bob Casey’s office, it was tough to get in touch. I tried DC, but the voicemail was full and there were busy signals. I tried his Philly office, but their phone line seemed to be acting up. I tried the Harrisburg office, and the staffer was friendly and helpful. She checked to make sure he hadn’t said anything on the topic during the afternoon, she said they didn’t have an easy process for responding by letter to phone calls, but she was more than happy to take my name and address to have someone get back to me. I told her that I appreciated it, and that it was a stark contrast to the other PA senator’s office. I also thanked her and also let her know that a member of our household was active in a large gun club, and hoped we looked forward to reporting good things about Senator Casey in the future. She also said she would look into the problems with the Philadelphia office phones. At the very least, that’s constituent service, even if I disagree with his vote.