Good Question: Does Calling Your Congressman Help?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — We hear it at the end of political issue ad commercials: “Call your congressman.” President Barack Obama told the nation in a primetime address Monday night, “I’m asking you to make your voice heard.” So, does calling your congressman make a difference?

The President’s call to action got results: “If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of congress know,” he said.

By 2:30 p.m., U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-St. Paul) office had received 650 emails and phone calls, according to the congresswoman.

“The phone calls I received said they wanted a fair and balanced approach towards handling nation’s debt, and they want the deficit issue put to bed so we can focus on getting people back to work,” said the congresswoman from Washington.

Congress got so many calls, people had a hard time getting through the main switchboard. We got busy signals when we called Rep. Tim Walz, Colin Peterson, Keith Ellison, Michele Bachmann and Betty McCollum. We got through to Rep. Chip Cravaak and Eric Paulson.

“If they can call on this issue, then we can begin to develop a dialogue on other issues,” said McCollum, “I want them to call me, to email me, to write me. I want to have contact.”

However, when it comes down to changing her core policy positions on an issue like the debt ceiling, McCollum acknowledged that constituent feedback didn’t generally make that happen.

“A core belief and a set of values is something I run and campaign on,” she said.

However, personal stories from constituents can shade her views, she said.

“In lots of legislation, there are nuances and different ways to solve a problem,” she said.

“Bottom line, I work for my constituents,” she said, pointing out the value of a phone call or email when it comes to cutting through the red tape and bureaucracy of the federal government. Constituent services are a key part of every congressional office.

However, when it comes to the really polarizing political issues of our time, “It’s really hard to change someone’s mind,” said Blois Olson, author of the Morning Take newsletter and political analyst on WCCO-AM. “It’s much easier on an obscure issue,” he said.

At many congressional offices, the staff prepares a daily report, tracking the phone calls, emails, letters and faxes, tracking where people fall on issues.

“You have a much better chance of having your call get through to the staffer working on that issue area if you tell your personal story,” said Olson.

Olson pointed out that many calls and emails are scripted by advocacy groups, and staffers know those. The personal stories and the personal research does get listened to, he said.

“It’s never a waste of time to reach out and talk to somebody,” said McCollum. “Democracy is about sharing opinions and making sure we have all the information available to us. We need to have that engagement, it’s critical.”

More from Jason DeRusha
  • A Voter

    How do you know it the line is busy, or the phone is off the hook?
    Am I dating myself by saying off the hook? ;o)

  • Midway Murph

    Ironic you have Betty McCollum on about this subject. She is by far the worst of all of the MN Congress at acknowledging or responding to calls, e-mails, faxes–etc. –unless of course you would be praising her for some reason, which I still am looking for even the slightest reason anyone would do that.

  • Rumplestilkson

    Why call them? They should understand that their only job is to use only the power given to them within the Constitution, otherwise they shouldn’t have been elected.

    Do you think they would want to answer a caller like me who would say-
    End the illegal wars
    Stop propping up dictators
    Stop Sneaking weapons of mass destruction to israel
    Stop spying on Americans
    Stop subsidizing illegal immigration
    Stop the war on drugs through decriminalization

    I doubt they want to hear these things, but they aren’t supposed to be doing these things anyway. What’;s the use?

    • Mark from

      Well Said

  • You gotta be ____in' me, right?

    The only two things they care about are 1) getting reelected (a process that begins even before they take office) in order to 2) take full advantage of the opportunities for personal wealth that being a politician affords them.

    They don’t give a rat’s dupa about what you or I think or want.

  • Sam

    “The phone calls I received said they wanted a fair and balanced approach towards handling nation’s debt”

    Maybe some did but I bet the overwhelming majority said, “Cut, Cut, Cut.”

    When they were running up the debt there wasn’t a ‘fair and balanced’ approach. They spent to much now they must cut. THAT is fair and balanced.

  • anonymous

    Notice how she says that she wouldn’t change her mind on a “core belief”? But yet she says “Bottom line, I work for my constituents.” If that were the case, if the majority of the contact she gets were for the opposite of what she personally believes, she should change her vote. But we all know that would not happen. Only radicals seem to get elected anymore… compromise is gone.

    • K.

      That’s right. They’re are supposed to be speaking for the people and not for themselves. Yet, that is how it seems to be these days.

    • Chris Dahl

      AMEN! Well Said!

  • anonymous

    Really, the only time a member of congress truly listens to their constituents is at the ballot box. Know who you’re voting for, people.

    • Idiot American

      I can’t take the time to research someone running for office. I get everything I need to know from political ads and the news. I like ponies and flowers and kittens. Whom ever has the most of those in their ads, that’s whom I vote for.

  • jan

    I contacted her regarding big pharma getting legislation to ban compounding pharmacies and she sided with big pharma. All I got was a form letter. I emailed her yesterday with a personal story. What do you bet I’ll get a form letter again regarding the default

  • M.

    It wont help if you call D-bag Keith Ellison. I called voicing opposition to the bailout bill. 2 weeks later I got a letter in the mail from his office thanking me for support of the bill. It was promptly shredded.

  • middle of the road

    I was first commentor and apparently “wcchoe” did nto like me calling out that both parties are owned. go figure. why was my comment not posted or removed?

    • got it figured out

      Key words are NOT published… have to be very careful what words you use…..

  • Tea is hot!

    “The phone calls I received said they wanted a fair and balanced approach towards handling nation’s debt”

    Note she said “she received” not the ALL of the calls made! I agree! I bet the majority of people ARE saying….Do what the rest of the US is doing…


    It should say ““The phone calls I received said they wanted a fair and balanced approach towards handling nation’s debt…and the calls I hung up on or refused to take were people complaining that we spend too much and are sick of the US and State Govt raising their taxes!”

    REFORM!!! Time to get the US govt in the 2000’s!!!

  • Should You Write Your to Member of Congress?

    […] course, the answer isn’t a definitive yes or no. In 2011, CBS Minnesota interviewed Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN) after her office received 650 emails and phone calls in less than a day from constituents urging a […]

blog comments powered by Disqus
Thursday Night Football

Listen Live