Congressman’s Office Says Constituent Calls are Harassment

March 19, 2010 at 10:47 (Congress, Constitution/Constitutional Issues, Free Speech, General Stupidity, Politics)

I tried to just get a bit of this to link back to the original, but decided to post a lot of it. I hope that’s ok with these guys. It is extremely important that this sort of thing is widely reported. If people don’t know things will never change. So just in case you decided to not click through I wanted you to have it all in one place, or most of it anyway 🙂

Yesterday, I decided to call Rep. John Garamendi’s (CA-10) office in Washington, D.C. He’s my representative and I wanted to voice my opposition to the Senate Health Care Bill. I spoke with a female staffer and politely told her that, while I support health care reform, I oppose the Senate Bill because it wasn’t true “reform.” She said the Congressman thinks it’s a good bill and that he campaigned on health care reform. I told her I knew that. I also mentioned that I voted for him. When I tried to give her specific reasons why the Senate Bill would harm our system rather than reform it, she refused to listen. She said she was very busy and hung up on me. Being the persistent person that I am, I kept calling back. Each time I tried to finish my point, she hung up.

I called one more time. This time she said, “If you call one more time, we will notify Capital Police.” I asked why my conduct warranted involving federal law enforcement agents. She said I was “harassing” her. I tried to explain that trying to convince a representative to change his or her vote didn’t constitute “harassment.” Before I could fully explain, she hung up again.

I called back. This time, I asked to speak to her supervisor in order to report her repeated hanging up as well as the threat she made. I was placed on hold. Thinking I was holding for her supervisor, I was shocked when a Federal Agent with the Capital Police picked-up the telephone.

At first, the Agent was curt with me. He claimed I was harassing Mr. Garamendi’s staff by continually calling after being told to stop calling. I asked him when it became a federal crime to lobby a congressman. He said that it wasn’t but it was a crime to “harass” congressional members and staff pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 223. I told him I was an attorney (which I am) and that I would research the statute he had cited.

After researching 47 U.S.C. 223, I called Mr. Garamendi’s office again and asked to be transferred back to the Capital Police Agent. The Agent picked up the phone and I explained to him that the statute he cited was not controlling since it only prohibits people from calling with the specific intent to harass. I further explained that I was simply trying to voice my concerns with the intent of getting Mr. Garamendi to change his mind, not to harass his staff. The Agent eventually agreed with my position and said he would call Mr. Garamendi’s office and instruct his staff that I was within my rights to call my congressman and voice my concerns.

After I hung up, I realized that this story should be told. Besides being an attorney, I’ve also had the privilege of serving this great country in the United States Marine Corps. Having seen the ugly legislative process the Senate Bill had been through, I saw this as not just another tactic to pass the Senate Bill at all costs, but also as an affront to our liberties.

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