Smith & Wyden: Calling the differences

T.A. Barnhart

I called Senators Wyden and Smith this morning to state my opposition to drilling in ANWR (I'm also wondering why someone did not take Ted Stevens up on his offer to retire by killing the Bridge to Nowhere; he and Richard Pombo are the two greatest threats to the environment in Congress).  I had two vastly different experiences.

I called both senators' offices in DC to make sure my voice was heard where the action was (I am nothing if not a voice of action).  I called Wyden first, and got a recorded message about the high call volume -- not surprising this morning -- and to please stay on hold to speak to someone.  I stayed on hold for about twelve seconds, and I was then speaking to an assistant.  My call lasted 38 seconds total, and I got to deliver my single sentence to Wyden's office: An absolute NO on ANWR drilling.

I next called Senator Smith, and his recorded voice also informed me of high call volumes, transferred me to the voice mail system, which, after announcing that the voice inbox was full, ended my call with a cheery "Goodbye."  No live person, no chance to annoy the Senator with some so trifling as a constituent call.  So I called the Portland office, not as politically efficacious but at least I might speak to a real live staffer.  Ha!  But at least this time I did get to leave a voice mail; I guess that constitutes an improvement.

Does this mean Ron Wyden is a better senator than Gordon Smith?  Is this indicative of the superior quality of Democratic versus Republican lawmakers?  Hell yes, of course; hey, I'm writing in Blue Oregon!  But seriously, on one of the busiest days of the year for hearing from constituents (the legislation that will be voted on today will have incredible consequences for years to come), Smith's office inexplicably dropped the ball.  Wyden's office managed to let me speak to a human being in half a minute.  I know I was just a tally at Wyden's office, but that was my goal: to let him know my opinion on his vote today.  Senator Smith's office did not even give me that opportunity.  If Wyden can, then Smith can, too.  Just another reason to add to the list when it's time to replace his sorry, inept Republican ass in 2008.

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    I called Smith's office yesterday and spoke to a woman who listened and said she would pass it on. My guess is that Smith's office is overwhelmed because he is the key vote and the world is descending on him.

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    Always good to get those numbers in front of people:

    Senator Ron Wyden

    <u>Portland Office</u> 700 NE Multnomah St Suite 450 Portland, OR 97232 (503) 326-7525

    <u>Washington Office</u> 230 Dirksen Senate Office Building Washington, DC 20510-3703 (202) 224-5244

    Senator Gordon Smith

    <u>Porltand Office</u> One World Trade Center 121 SW Salmon Street, Suite 1250 Portland, OR 97204 Phone: 503.326.3386 Fax: 503.326.2900

    <u>Washington Office</u> 404 Russell Building Washington, DC 20510 Phone: 202.224.3753 Fax: 202.228.3997

    Remember, they're BOTH your senators!

  • Jeff Bull (unverified)

    Just to generate discussion, what do y'all think Gordo's (that's Senator Gordon Smith to you and me) will pay for bucking the GOP leadership twice in one week - that's assuming he plays a role in scuttling the budget and defense bills. I thought about this a bit over on my blog (LINK). In case you don't pop over, I think he'd do himself a favor with Oregon voters by would charbroil any and all bridges to the GOP leadership and, indirectly, to various committee seats and so on.

    Given that I'm on a left-leaning site, I figure there's less sympathy for Gordo's future within the GOP than there is for ANWR's future, still, it's a point of curiosity on one hand and of relative power for an Oregon senator on another.

    Thanks, Mr. Alworth, for the digits. Good things to put to use.

  • Simp (unverified)

    I'm also wondering why someone did not take Ted Stevens up on his offer to retire by killing the Bridge to Nowhere;

    Becuase it isn't dead. The monies were simply shifted to general federal transportation funds for Alaska.

  • Skip from Gresham (unverified)

    PERHAPS TA....Smith's phone system is far more swamped than Ron's because he represents THE crucial swing vote on the budget since he has decided to buck his party's leadership on social cuts. I suspect that if you had a truly private conversation with Ron himself, he would have qualms about any movement here at home to dump Smith. He knows that their combined clout in Congress has grown quickly over the past 4-5 years....clout that is important to Oregon.

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)

    Indeed one would wish that the good citizens of AK would retire Senator (wince) Stevens, that wizened old crank! Let's not forget that it was his irrational outburst that inspired Frist's looming threat of the "nuclear option" to shutdown opposition to one-party rule.

  • Kathy (unverified)

    I had a similar experience as I tried to communicate with both senators. Wyden's website was user friendly and easy to navigate. His email communication was helpful and offered a response by the senator. When I emailed Smith, all I got was a message: "Thank you for expressing your view." His website was equally user-UNfriendly. This makes me think that there is a fundamental difference between the two senator's philosophy of being responsible to their constituencies.

  • Jill (unverified)

    When I have gotten through Smith's office, I have felt a sublte form of disrespect from them, verging on disgust, and I distinctly felt like my comments would be disregarded and get no further than that phone call. No tally was being taken at all. Wyden's office has been cheerful, available, and taking tallies. Darlene Hooley is the best, taking name, address, and responding by mail. David Wu's office takes note, even though it is not my district. I was disappointed to realize it will be 2008 before a chance to vote for that senate seat.

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