Sour Grapes
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Electronic communications flood Congress

USA Today (not a paper I generally read) has an interesting article about he impact of the Internet and e-mail on the operations of Congressional offices(via Michael Geist's Internet Law News).

According to a recent report by the Congressional Management Foundation, Congress received four times more communications in 2004 than it did in 2005, with all of the increase emanating from Internet-based communications. During this decade, notwithstanding the exponential increase in communications, staffing levels at Congressional members' personal offices did not change. The number of communications received by Congress reached a phenomenal 200,388,993 in 2004....

[Not 200,388,992. Not 200,388,994. But exactly 200,388,993!]

In spite of the deluge of electronic communications, 79% of Congressional staff recognize that the Internet has made it easier for citizens to become involved in public policy, and 55% believe that the Internet has increased public understanding of the workings of the federal government. Furthermore, 48% believe that the Internet has made members of Congress more responsive to their constituents.

Congressional staff members do have concerns about identical electronic communications that are generated from lists. Half of these staff believe that many of these identical communications are sent without constituent knowledge or consent. Furthermore, staff members state their belief that personalized or individualized messages to Congress have more influence on the decision-making process of Congressional members than do identical form letters. Obviously, quality is more important than quantity when it comes to contacting Congress.

I admit to being a fairly prolific slacktivist. Every year I send dozens — if not over 100 — messages to government officials, mostly from sites and e-mails generated by the likes of ACLU's and Amnesty International's online action centers. Every time I send one unmodified, or even only slightly modified, I feel a little bit guilty about not writing the whole thing from scratch myself, because I know they look like mere form letters to staffs. Which is exactly what they are. But I console myself by saying that it's more effective than doing nothing.

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