Yesterday, I decided to call Rep. John Garamendi’s (CA-10) office in Washington, D.C. He’s my representative and I wanted to voice my opposition to the Senate Health Care Bill. I spoke with a female staffer and politely told her that, while I support health care reform, I oppose the Senate Bill because it wasn’t true “reform.”
She said the Congressman thinks it’s a good bill and that he campaigned on health care reform. I told her I knew that. I also mentioned that I voted for him. When I tried to give her specific reasons why the Senate Bill would harm our system rather than reform it, she refused to listen.
She said she was very busy and hung up on me. Being the persistent person that I am, I kept calling back. Each time I tried to finish my point, she hung up.
I called one more time. This time she said, “If you call one more time, we will notify Capital Police.” I asked why my conduct warranted involving federal law enforcement agents. She said I was “harassing” her. I tried to explain that trying to convince a representative to change his or her vote didn’t constitute “harassment.” Before I could fully explain, she hung up again.
I called back. This time, I asked to speak to her supervisor in order to report her repeated hanging up as well as the threat she made. I was placed on hold. Thinking I was holding for her supervisor, I was shocked when a Federal Agent with the Capital Police picked-up the telephone.
At first, the Agent was curt with me. He claimed I was harassing Mr. Garamendi’s staff by continually calling after being told to stop calling. I asked him when it became a federal crime to lobby a congressman. He said that it wasn’t but it was a crime to “harass” congressional members and staff pursuant to 47 U.S.C. 223. I told him I was an attorney (which I am) and that I would research the statute he had cited.
After researching 47 U.S.C. 223, I called Mr. Garamendi’s office again and asked to be transferred back to the Capital Police Agent. The Agent picked up the phone and I explained to him that the statute he cited was not controlling since it only prohibits people from calling with the specific intent to harass.
I further explained that I was simply trying to voice my concerns with the intent of getting Mr. Garamendi to change his mind, not to harass his staff. The Agent eventually agreed with my position and said he would call Mr. Garamendi’s office and instruct his staff that I was within my rights to call my congressman and voice my concerns.
After I hung up, I realized that this story should be told. Besides being an attorney, I’ve also had the privilege of serving this great country in the United States Marine Corps. Having seen the ugly legislative process the Senate Bill had been through, I saw this as not just another tactic to pass the Senate Bill at all costs, but also as an affront to our liberties.
While I’m fortunate enough to be able to legally challenge what happened today, others aren’t. The sad part is the democrats know this. They know that Americans unfamiliar with federal jurisprudence can easily be silenced when threats to involve federal agents are made.
They know that most Americans don’t want trouble and they’ll go away rather than face the possibility of having to explain themselves to federal agents. That’s why I found this tactic appalling, as a Marine, as an attorney and as a proud American.
During my final contact with Mr. Garamendi’s staff, it was confirmed to me that he would vote for the Senate Bill no matter what. I was told that I was wasting my time by calling. Mr. Garamendi is a junior member of the House of Representatives. He was just elected via a special election last November. He has made it clear that he is willing to forsake his constituents in order to please the Speaker of the House.
Speaker Pelosi has said that she will stop at nothing to get the Senate Bill passed. She publicly stated that she would “pole vault over a wall” if barriers stood in her way. While that may be an amusing spectacle, it is indicative of what happened to me today. Apparently, threatening Americans with federal crimes to silence them is the latest tool in Speaker Pelosi’s dirty bag of tricks.