August 25, 2002
Easy ways to reach your congressman
By Ryan Karp and Paul M. Krawzak
Copley News Service
WASHINGTON — Public perceptions to the contrary, fat cats aren’t the only ones with easy access to members of Congress.
Bruce Swaffield, a professor at Malone College in Canton, said he’s constantly surprised at how easy it is to get through to his
congressman, Rep. Ralph Regula, R-Bethlehem Township.
“It’s always been easy to reach him,” said Swaffield, of North Canton. Swaffield has contacted Regula more than 15 times during the past three years and once stopped in to visit him in his Washington office.
“I was just one person in the district,” he said. “I didn’t think he had time to help me.”
The average congressional district has more than 600,000 residents, and a typical congressman receives thousands of letters,
e-mails and phone calls each month. Senators, who represent millions of people in their states, are even more deluged. But those
who know how to navigate the system find they can get through.
Regula said he meets with constituents up to three times a day by appointment.
“I think people are surprised how easy it is to get a meeting with me,” he said. “People think congressmen are removed from the
public. That’s not true. At least, that’s not the case with me.”
Rep. Bob Ney, R-St. Clairsville, meets or talks on the phone with constituents about 25 times a month, he estimated.
“I’m a big grass-roots guy,” he said. All requests for personal meetings are passed on to him.
In most cases, he said, his staff can solve a constituent’s problem faster than a meeting can take place. But if someone really wants
to meet with him it will happen, he said.
Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Lucasville, likes to meet with constituents whenever possible.
“I encourage people to schedule an appointment with me,” he said. “By far, that’s the preferred method. I meet with them in my
Washington office or in the district. My people expect it. It’s what I’ve done for the past eight years.”
Although all lawmakers set aside time to meet with voters, the quickest way to get a problem addressed or express a view is to
make a call, write a letter or send an e-mail to a lawmaker’s office.
Constituents who need help with a government-related concern should call a lawmaker’s district office, where the staff that does
casework usually is based.
In a novel arrangement, Ohio’s two senators, Mike DeWine and George Voinovich, have established a joint casework office in
Columbus that fields requests for assistance.
“It saves constituents time because with one phone call they get the power of two senators on their behalf, not just one,” said
Voinovich spokesman Scott Milburn.
Voters in the district that James Traficant represented before he was expelled from the House and imprisoned have lost
representation until another congressman is elected in November. Residents still can seek help with government problems by
contacting the former Traficant offices, which now operate under the supervision of the House clerk.
Voters expressing their views on issues or legislation usually should contact the Washington office, where legislative staff is based. If
they call the local office instead, their concerns typically will be forwarded to Washington.
Although phone calls and letters are the traditional vehicles for communication, e-mail has grown rapidly since the late 1990s. E-mail to Congress totaled 117 million messages last year and is projected to rise to 127 million this year, according to a study by the Congressional Management Foundation and George Washington University.
But the rate of growth in e-mail actually is falling as a result of techniques adopted by congressional offices, including the use of
filters and other mechanisms to screen e-mail, the study found.
When sending an electronic message to a representative, always include your full address and ZIP code to show that you’re a
constituent, recommends Brad Fitch, deputy director of the Congressional Management Foundation. Most lawmakers have filters that to discard or return e-mail that is not identified as being from a constituent, he said.
Because of the challenge of managing growing volumes of e-mail, Ney said the quickest way to reach him is “the good old phone
call.” In his rural district, he added, many people have no access to computers.
Though e-mail has surpassed other forms of communication in some offices, traditional mail enjoys a comfortable lead in others.
DeWine gets up to 4,000 letters a month, but only 3,000 e-mails.
The easiest way to send an e-mail is to go to the lawmaker’s Web site and to find a link to send a message.
More than half of the House members and senators do not use public e-mail addresses and can be reached only through their Web
One advantage of e-mail is that it moves faster than regular mail, which is irradiated before being delivered to lawmakers’
The government has been irradiating mail since anthrax-laced letters were sent to Capitol Hill in October. As a result, letters are
delayed at least 12 days and sometimes much longer.
“We’re still getting Christmas cards,” DeWine spokeswoman Amanda Flaig said.
As chairman of the House Administration Committee, Ney is preparing to launch a pilot project to explore the feasibility of having congressional mail scanned and digitally transmitted to congressional offices. Such a system would speed delivery of constituent communications.
Regula emphasized the importance of contacting his office.
“People are inclined to express their viewpoint if they have an issue they’re concerned about,” he said. “A lot of them make a good
case with an e-mail or letter. There’s no better way.”
Setting up a meeting with a senator, who represents an entire state, is more of a challenge than meeting with a congressman.
“We get hundreds of requests a week” to meet with DeWine, Flaig said.
One easy way to see DeWine is at a weekly coffee he hosts Tuesday mornings when the Senate is in session. The coffee, held in his office, is open to Ohioans, who also can have their pictures taken with him. Visitors should call in advance.
Voinovich always will meet with someone if it’s important to the person, Milburn said.
“It’s limited only by the hours that he has in a day,” Milburn said.
WASHINGTON — The quickest way to reach a congressman or senator’s office is by phone; the second-fastest is usually by e-mail.
Letters through regular mail are delayed at least 12 days by a process that destroys anthrax or other deadly agents that could have been put in envelopes.
Letters can be faxed for quicker delivery.
Constituents seeking help with a government-related problem should contact a lawmaker’s local office. Those who want to express
opinions should send their communications to the Washington, D.C., offices.
E-mail addresses or forms are available on members’ Web sites.
• Rep. Ralph Regula: 2306 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone (202) 225-3876; Fax (202) 225-3059;
Web site http://wwwa.house.gov/regula.
Canton office: 4150 Belden Village St., NW, Suite 408 Canton, OH 44718-2553; Phone (330) 489-4414; Toll-free (800) 826-9015 (in
Ohio); Fax (330) 489-4448.
• Rep. Bob Ney: 1024 Longworth House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone (202) 225-6265; Fax (202) 225-3394; Web
New Philadelphia office: Hilton-Fairfield Bldg. 152 Second St., NE, No. 200 New Philadelphia, OH 44663; Phone (330) 364-6380.
• Rep. Thomas Sawyer: 1414 Longworth House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone (202) 225-5231; Fax (202)
225-5278. Web site: http://wwwa.house.gov/sawyer.
Akron office: 411 Wolf Ledges Parkway, Suite 105 Akron, OH 44311-1051; Phone (330) 375-5710.
• Rep. Ted Strickland: 336 Cannon House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone (202) 225-5705; Fax (202) 225-5907; Web
Main district office: 1236 Gallia St. Portsmouth, OH 45662 Phone (740) 353-5171; Fax (740) 353-8014;
• District of former Rep. James Traficant: 2446 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone (202) 225-5261; Fax
(202) 225-3719; Web site http://clerk.house.gov/members/election—in formation/ohio—17th/index.php.
Youngstown office: 125 Market St. Youngstown, Ohio 44503; Phone (330) 743-1914.
• Rep. Sherrod Brown: 2438 Rayburn House Office Building Washington, D.C. 20515; Phone (202) 225-3401; Fax (202) 225-2266;
Web site http://wwwa.house.gov/brown.
Medina office: 124 W. Washington Medina, Ohio 44256; Phone (330) 722-9262; Fax (330) 722-2401.
• Sen. Mike DeWine: 140 Russell Senate Building, Washington, D.C., 20510; Phone (202) 224-2315; Fax (202) 224-6519; TDD (202)
224-9921; Web site http://dewine.senate.gov.
Cleveland office: 600 E. Superior Ave., Room 2450 Cleveland, OH 44114; Phone (216) 522-7272; Fax (216) 522-2239.
• Sen. George Voinovich: 317 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C., 20510; Phone (202) 224-3353; Fax (202) 228-1382;
TDD (202) 224-6997; Web site http://voinovich.senate.gov.
Cleveland office: 1240 E. Ninth St., Room 2955 Cleveland, OH 44199; Phone (216) 522-7095; Fax (216 522-7097.
Joint DeWine/Voinovich casework office: 37 W. Broad St., Suite 300 Columbus, OH 43215; Phone (614) 469-6774; Fax (614)
469-7419; Hot line (800) 205-OHIO.