Typical of the reaction to
gress is this flood of mail stacked on tables and overflowing to
the floor of the Senate post office. An overage day, however,
brings about 100 letters to each congressman. These letters
influence their votes and help to "keep them on their toes."
to your two senators.
The advantages in doing so are that
they have a personal interest in your
vote and will probably refer your
letter to the congressional committee
concerned. They can give it added
weight if, instead of sending it with a
forma] note, thev write the committee.
"We think this suggestion merits your
attention." It's an extra asset if your
senator or representative is on the
committee concerned. He may himself
introduce your idea into the legislation.
"Write each person a separate letter," one congressman warned. "It's
onlv human, when a letter is marked
'copy.' " he said, "for each party to
discount its importance, assuming the
other recipient has given it full attention."
It's particularly effective to present
your ideas for legislation directly to a
chairman of a committee. That way
thev will certainly go to the committee
Staff, which culls the ideas from all
letters, puts like ideas together, and
works some into actual wording of
legislation. It makes no difference to
most committee staffs whether the
writers are people of prominence or
ordinary folk. The well-thought-out
letter is judged on its
merit. As one committee
staff member told me,
"Little people can have
Any library or government office has the blue-
bound Congressional Directory, with the names of
committee chairmen and
all members of House and
Senate. There's a separate
listing of committee assignments of all members
Sometimes it's a puzzler
to find which committee
has a bill. If you don't
know, you can write first
to find out, or write to the
most probable committee,
trusting that your letter
will be forwarded, if necessary.
You can assume in writing that the Congress
member or committee
chairman is friendly. The
crank letter or the vituperative letter may be
answered formally but is
unlikely to influence legislation. Also, the perennial
letter writer may lose his
effectiveness over the
years unless he takes care
that each letter presents a
sound "what" and "why."
Citizens propose new
laws on a wide variety of
topics. Some have such merit that a
congressman goes into action on it
A constituent of Senator Karl E.
Mundt, Republican of South Dakota,
wrote to recommend that pensions betaken away from government workers
found guilty of subversion. "1 introduced such a bill," Senator Mundt relates, "and it became a law in 1954."
Representative Wright Patman,
Democrat of Texas, recalls that one of
his constituents, while John Dillinger
was causing gangster tenor through
tbe Midwest, wrote: "Why don't you
offer a bill by which the Attorney General could offer a reward for capture
or information leading to capture of
Mr. Patman introduced such a bill,
which became law on June 6, 1934.
"The law," he says, "aided directly in
stopping the criminal careers of Dillinger and others like him."
Representative Russell V. Mack,
Republican of Washington, cites a
couple of cases from the numerous
ones where he found letters from
"A lot of writers," he says, "protested to me about the junk mail crowding
their mailboxes. As a result of com
bined efforts, junk mail is apparent
Congressman Mack also tells ol v<-
erans who wrote him about the inj"'
tice of not getting Social Securi'
credit while in service. This cow
mean loss of a pension for lack
enough quarters of coverage. The W
was changed to allow those w''»
served between September, 1940, aj
June, 1953, to get Social Security cred
if they were not getting other retit(
ment credit during that period.
WORDS INTO PRINT
As a citizen you even have "
power to be a legislative witness
without ever going to Washingto'
D. C. You can write a committee A
ing that vour statement be publish]
in the collected hearings on a partj'J
lar bill. These publications are wic''
and carefully studied. Probably 1<*
effective a method is to ask your <*J
gressman to incorporate your
ment for or against legislation in
appendix of the daily CongressiW
You can also try to influence leglS
tion through the executive branch
the government — such as the ',
Office or Treasury Departments or ^
Veterans' Administration. But )',
may be spreading your effort a ».
thin by doing so. It's true that s^
legislation originates with a drat',
the executive agencies, but your <n
gressmen are elected to make J
You can also take official stand*
pending laws through various OtU
/ations with which you're allied. ?lj
views may be communicated °^\
at committee meetings. This holds |
for state, county, and local law
—ell as national ones. You need"
uneasy about breaking a law uy \j
ing your congressman. I nailed •
fear with the official statement:
living laws apply only to those .
are paid for attempting to infll,e^
legislation." As a private citizens
are unrestricted in decent expffl
of your opinion.
In fact, if you write a let^S
Congress, you're exercising thci1.,!!
constitutional privilege in the •'' 1
Rights — guaranteeing vour rig'1]
petition the government for a '
W \.i iiiiiv in iv^a *-
of grievances." ,>■
Even the simplest letter e\l",'~.
a view on legislation is a petitl%
may have only one signature, N' 1
petition it commands respect if' 1
tains sound and clearly eXP\J
ideas. Just be sure to take this C»J-1
advice of Representative Clair & ,.
Democrat of California: "I>n
il. generalities. Say, 'I'm »°
against) this for these reasons'',..
3, 4.'" Such a letter helps ma* sj
1'vi is Fori m News, Mw
■ W. i-