CommunityMy FDLSeminal

One Person’s Efforts for Change

I had written a few diaries regarding the part of the First Amendment that has to do with the "right to petition for redress of grievances".

This diary is a report on my efforts and the results.

But first a little history; "Yet despite its social benefits, the First Amendment right of petition has not been developed as a doctrine or championed as a cause. Few scholars or courts have fully appreciated the importance of the right to petition and its more contemporary applications."

AND "the Supreme Court explained in Minnesota Board for Community Colleges v. Knight (1984): "[N]othing in the First Amendment or in this Court’s case law interpreting it suggests that the rights to speak, associate, and petition require government policymakers to listen or respond to individuals’ communications on public issues."

And a wonderful example of this lack of requirement is the over 300,000 signatures submitted to the FCC demanding net neutrality; ignored in favor of the corporations and politics.

So while the issue of having the petition for redress being ignored by King George lead to a revolution, nowadays there is The Alien Registration Act or Smith Act (18 U.S.C. § 2385).

So since there is no requirement for Congress to act on a petition for redress of grievances, I created what I thought would be legislation that would require a response from Congress while anticipating the resistance and claims for legitimacy of signatures on such a petition:

"Upon presentation to a Senator or Representative or branch of U.S. Government, of a petition seeking a redress of grievance consisting of the signatures of 100,000 registered voters, such an individual or branch of U.S. government shall and must take action to redress and/or respond to such a petition within 120 days of the submission of such a grievance, inclusive of the days deemed for verification of such signatures being those of a registered voter. Such registered voter signatures shall and must be verified by the registered voter’s Secretary of State regarding the validity of the signature being that of a State’s registered voter within 30 days of such a request by a Representative,Senator, or branch of the U.S. government or be cited for Contempt of Congress and the established procedure associated with such a citation be followed. In the case where petitions are submitted that are diametrically opposed to one another, the petition with the larger number of signatories will be higher in priority for redress and/or response but in no instance will such opposing petitions not be acted upon within the 120 day time limit. Failure of a Senator or Representative or branch of the U.S. Government to redress and/or respond to such a petition shall be guilty of violating Title 18 U.S.C. § 241, Conspiracy against rights of citizens, and subject to the penalties associated with such code infraction."

So I then sent a letter (certified mail,return receipt) to the following:
U.S. Representative Brian Bilbray (my rep)
2348 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
U.S. Representative John Conyers, Jr.
2426 Rayburn H.O.B.
Washington, DC 20515
U.S. Representative Dennis J. Kucinich
2445 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
U.S. Representative Alan Grayson
1605 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
U.S. Representative Bob Filner
2428 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Senator Barbara Boxer (one of my Senators)
Senator Dianne Feinstein (the other Senator)
Senator Russell Feingold
Senator Sherrod Brown
Senator Bernard Sanders

asking "First, will you sponsor or co-sponsor the following legislation (or introduce your own that achieves the same purpose)?" and "If you will not sponsor or co-sponsor such legislation, please state why you will not.alt="" />
Secondly, will you support such legislation if it is introduced?"

Realizing that the Congress critters usually don’t respond to those who aren’t constituents (even though they are happy to send you emails about themselves and solicitations for money), I wrote the following: "I look forward to your response and, iterating, request a written response even if I am not a constituent of your district or State."

And the adventure began.

First let me speak to the return receipts(green cards on the letter where the person receiving the letter signs for it). Turns out both the Senate and the House do NOT receive mail directly. It goes to a Pitney Bowes center that scans the letters for ‘hazards'(such as anthrax for instance). Then a Pitney Bowes employee takes the letters around to the House addresses and gets a signature on an electronic tablet(like UPS does for packages).

Something a bit different takes place for Senators but I wasn’t able to ascertain that as the return receipt green cards from ALL the Senators came back within 2 weeks of sending the letters.

Since the USPS has a tracking system and I hadn’t received any responses from the House members, I went on the USPS site to try and figure out why I wasn’t getting any green cards back from the letters I sent to House members. What showed up was indications of some deliveries but no green cards were being returned to me.

The next day a green card showed up from Rep. Bob Filner BUT the USPS tracking indicated he had never received my letter.

So that’s when I got on the phone and started calling the USPS. First I called my local USPS station who told me the problem was in the D.C. office and gave me the phone number to call.

Which I did and received the case number CA102270949 upon explaining what I had done in using the USPS tracking system and seeing that the tracking system indicated that the letters had been delivered but that the only green card received back from the Representatives I had sent my letter to was from a Representative’s office which the tracking system said HAD NOT been delivered yet.

The next thing that happened is I received a phone call from my local USPS station informing they had this case assigned to them. I iterated what the locals already knew; this was a problem in D.C.

So back on the phone to the D.C. post office for the Rayburn HOB (since that was where most of Rep’s letters were sent. And they again referred me to Pitney-Bowes. And,again, I called Pitney-bowes’ D.C facility and ,again, explained what the situation was (no green cards returned, no indication of delivery in the USPS tracking system).

Fortunately I ended up talking to someone who completely explained the process by which mail from the USPS is delivered to them and what Pitney-Bowes does in delivering the mail. Specifically, there was an acknowledgement that despite Federal regulations of the USPS, they don’t often get signatures on the green cards, just getting the signatures of who accepted delivery on a tablet device like UPS uses for deliveries.

And the Pitney-Bowes person then agreed to send me their copies of the signatures they had obtained in delivering my letters.

So after examining the signatures provided by Pitney-Bowes. it turns out the only person who didn’t receive my letter -or for which there was no record at Pitney-Bowes- was Rep. Alan Grayson who happened to have the one Longworth HOB address amongst all addressed.

So back on the phone to D.C. USPS about that. Turns out that the USPS mail facility in D.C. for Rayburn HOB is NOT the same USPS facility that handles the Longworth HOB. So I called that USPS facility for the Longworth HOB and received a recorded message that allowed for leaving a message. I explained in the voice mail message the situtation and case number and waited to be called back.

A couple of days passed and I hadn’t received a call from the Longworth HOB USPS facility. So I called again and again just got a recorded message and ,again, left a message requesting a call about the the delivery failure to Rep. Grayson.

More time passed and while I kept checking to see notice of delivery, nothing showed up and no calls were forthcoming from the Longworth HOB USPS facility.

So I contacted my local USPS office, explaining that what I had paid for -a certified delivery, return receipt requested letter to Rep.Grayson- never occurred. The only alternative solution presented was the USPS refunding my money and re-sending of the letter to Rep.Grayson. Which is what occurred.

Time ‘went by’ and still no indication of delivery. Again, I called that USPS facility for the Longworth HOB and ,again,received a recorded message that allowed for leaving a message. I explained in the voice mail message the situation and waited to be called back.

A couple of days passed and I hadn’t received a call from the Longworth HOB USPS facility. So I called again and again just got a recorded message and ,again, left a message requesting a call about the the delivery failure to Rep. Grayson.

More time passed and I still had not received a response ,still no indication of delivery, and given that I wasn’t one of Rep. Grayson’s constituents and had not heard from ANY of the Senators or Representatives for which I was not a constituent, I gave up on trying to get a letter to Rep. Grayson.

I had not received any replies from my Senators or Representative despite proof of the letters being received so ,again, back on the phone.

Given that my Rep. –Bilbray– is a supposedly a big supporter of citizen involvement, I first called his office and asked to speak with the person who signed for the letter. The last name was scribbled so all I had was the first name of ‘Joe’ to go on. The staffer who answered indicated Joe wasn’t available but did acknowledge that the office had received my letter and that he would relay my concerns about not receiving a reply.

Well , a couple of weeks went by and lo and behold, a letter from Rep. Bilbray shows up. In the letter -in which he misspells my name- Rep.Bilbray states ""I was interested to read your proposal for a referendum system at the Federal level,etc". Which is NOT what my letter was about, it was about having the Government forced to respond to citizens’ ‘petition for redress of grievances’, NOT a referendum system(which leads to direct democracy and which is not what the Founding Fathers intended).

And then he goes on about the Federal deficit and House Republicans’ creating a website "designed specifically to seek ideas and input from all Americans". basically telling me to participate in the forum Republicans have set up for ‘citizen involvement’.

So, again, on the phone to Representative Bilbray’s office where I find out that there is a person named Joe Williamson who answers the letters sent to the Representative. I was given Mr. Williamson’s email address and told to write him directly with my complaint that Rep. Bilbray did not answer the questions posed in my letter and that what he wrote back about a referendum system is NOT what I was calling for in my letter.

Well, here it is 3 months later since writing/emailing Joe Williamson and I STILL haven’t heard anything.

I started on calling my Senator’s offices as I hadn’t received any reply from them either.

Senator Feinstein’s office indicated that all letters were answered out of the San Francisco office and that only emails were handled by the D.C. office and that they do automatically trace such correspondence BUT they do NOT track USPS mail like they do emails. And that there was someone in the SF office named Cody Gray in the SF office to query about a response. So I emailed Mr. Gray on 6/29/2010.

Long story short about Senator Feinstein is that I received a letter from her SF office, dated August 31,2010 -2 months after my email-,( I guess, no postmark on the letter) indicating "I appreciate receiving your input about requiring legislators to respond to constituents petitions". Again no response to the questions I posed in my letter which for refresher sake I again post: "First, will you sponsor or co-sponsor the following legislation (or introduce your own that achieves the same purpose)?" and "If you will not sponsor or co-sponsor such legislation, please state why you will not.
Secondly, will you support such legislation if it is introduced?".

Well, another non-response from someone who supposedly represents me. Another legislator who apparently is ok with Congress not having either a moral or legal obligation to respond to citizen petitions for redress of grievances.

Which only left Senator Boxer’s office for which I hadn’t received a reply.

On the phone again; Senator Boxer’s office says a similar statement to Senator Feinstein’s: USPS letters are not answered in D.C. but, in Senator Boxer’s case, out of the Los Angeles office. The D.C. office for Senator Boxer told me I would have to fax my letter to the Senator’s L.A. office which I did on July 2, 2010.

I still haven’t received any reply from Senator Boxer though I have received repeated email solicitations for funds for the re-election campaign.

And ,obviously, I have saved all records (phone,USPS,fax) related to this story in case anyone questioned my veracity in these efforts to have Congress address the fact that they have neither ‘moral or legal’ obligations to respond to citizen’s ‘petition for redress of grievances’.

To me it’s obvious that the Founding Fathers never imagined the impact of a change from an agrarian society to an industrialized one (and now moving to an ‘information’ society). BUT their intention was -and is- VERY clear, just as it is now clear to me that a ‘professional’ political class has arisen that has no intention whatsoever of citizen’s actually having a say in their governance.

From not being able to actually see how votes are counted, to the media dictating how and when election results are reported, to media charging for political speech despite them only leasing what belongs to the people, to the ongoing efforts to privatize the ‘commons’ and legislators going along with such efforts, to Congress not being able to figure how how to provide what the Founding Fathers intended even with all the technology now available, to Presidents who don’t use the power granted them by the SCOTUS to direct the House to increase it’s representation, the evidence is clear that "We the People" means nothing anymore.

As I have stated before, we have the same number of Representatives as after WWII despite the population being 3 times larger. For contrast, Brazil has a population of about 190 million(note the ‘color/race breakdown), the U.S. has 307 million.

Brazil has 513 Representatives(Chamber of Deputies),78 more than the U.S. which has 140 million more in population. And 81 Senators. (info from here:

AND the Representatives (Deputies) are elected according to proportional electoral system (state’s population) as contrasted to Senators which are elected by majority vote.

So you can see some of the why GlennG lives there.

Between failure to prosecute those responsible for the financial fraud perpetuated on this Country, the failure to prosecute those responsible for war crimes and torture, the continuation of ‘permanent war’ as the basis for a Foreign policy that serves not the ideals of the Founding Fathers but as a means to promote U.S. business interests, the outrageous disparity of wealth which legislators are afraid to address because of the desire for campaign funds, the apparent willingness of those who wish this nation to be a ‘christian’ nation to throw the poor and disadvantaged ‘under the bus’ (just some of the problems not being address by the government), and my experience in seeking ‘change’, excuse me if I no longer consider the U.S. as anything but a parody of representative democracy.

I am also sending this diary on to Obama; maybe he’ll get a clue why there is an ‘enthusiasm’ gap except for those who are comfortable with a semi -if not wholly- fascistic nation.

Previous post

Saturday Art: Robert Williams

Next post

From Pig to Man, and from Man to Pig, and from Pig to Man Again



Jobs I've had: mowing lawns,delivering newspapers,Bedding deliveryman, short order cook,vietnam vet,bookkeeeper in Fulton Fish Market,merchandiser/asst. buyer in Garment District,Womens shoe store salesman and asst.mgr.,wholesale egg delivery man,telephone company phone booth and car washer,taxi driver,mud carrier for bricklayers, college student,radio/tv repair training, fm disc jockey, dealer,Vegas bartender,registered commodity representative(broker and mgr.),programmer,systems programmer,systems engineer,pre and post sales engineer,computer admin, computer systems support,notary public and probably a couple of other jobs I've forgotten.