What Congress Owes the Constituents by Ira Chaleff, Letter to The New York Times
One of my roles in Washington DC is Chairman Emeritus of the Congressional Management Foundation, known to Capital Hill staff as “CMF”. CMF is one of the very few non-partisan (and non-profit) organizations that has earned the trust of congressional offices on both sides of the political aisle. For three decades CMF has provided research, guidebooks, training and facilitation services to help individual congressional offices serve their constituents better. As we all know, there are many points of dysfunction in Congress and recently CMF expanded its mission to try to address some of these at the institutional level – no mean feat to attempt.
But while institutional dysfunction is serious, individual congressional offices do a very credible job helping constituents interface with federal bureaucracies to address problems such as lost social security checks, backlogged visa requests and veterans’ benefits – collectively known as “casework”. And they do this without ever asking which party the constituent belongs to, who they voted for or who they support with campaign contributions; this is one function in which “the little guy” is actually served.
On Sunday, Sep 9, an opinion piece in the New York Times attacked the validity of this function. This called for a response, which I penned that very morning. Here is my letter the Times published later in the week. It’s the 3rd one down on this topic.