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Keep in mind, the people who answer your calls are (likely unpaid) high school or college interns, not "staffers." They are not the people who research or discuss policy issues, they likely are not very aware of the candidate's legislative positions except on issues that generate lots of angry calls from constituents with time on their hands, like Medicare benefits for seniors. They are not making official statements.

I don't understand the significance of this point. If I called and heard such things and they said "well that's just a flunkie who knows nothing, not the voice of the senator" I'd reply "How is this my problem? I call your office, this is who you chose to have answer: this person is speaking for you." Excuses like the one above only reflect even more poorly on the subject, "I have no idea what my staffers are saying to people, I'm unable to communicate effectively with my constituents, etc." None of these points reflect well on the senator.

When I called my reps (repeatedly) their staffers/phone-answerers would say absolutely nothing about SOPA to me. One (I forget which) said "he supports net neutrality," but beyond that it was "he's issued no statement, I don't know his stance, what was the name of the bill again?" I'm disgusted with all my legislators on this... each office (besides Brown, I think) agreed to follow up with me via email or phone when they find out more, none have. I live in western MA.

I am so tired of this sort of shit. Communicating your stance on an issue to your constituents is part of your job, legislators. If I call and you can't tell me your stance on a major issue like this, you are not doing your job, just like a dishwasher who throws plates in the trash. Raah.

Not saying anything is a whole lot better than the call described in the blog. That at least means they know it's unpopular and haven't decided which side to come down on yet (so they don't want to speak too soon and have to flip flop). The more they get worried about talking to you, the more it seems like they don't want to have anything to do with it. The most effective way to kill a bill is just to never vote on it.

Hopefully (I'm not super hopeful), what we're seeing is that the supporters of it don't want to have to back down, but everyone else just wants to leave the issue as far away as possible so they don't have to talk about it.

Yup - my take on this is that the guy on the phone is probably personally opposed to the bill, and is tired of having to talk to people angry about it all day, and just doesn't care enough to sugar-coat it and give any sort of official response. He's putting it the way he sees it from his perspective, no more, no less.

Of course, he's probably going to be fired if they figure out who he is, just like any phone-support person would be fired for saying things so far outside what the officially stated company position is. But on the other hand, he probably doesn't care too much - he'll get a few thousand karma on Reddit, "I got fired from Senator Schumer's Office for calling him out on supporting censorship, AMA", and he only took this job anyways because his rich uncle pulled too many strings to set it up for him to say no (even though he'd never asked in the first place, that was his mom). Shit, he doesn't care about politics anyways, he's going to be a musician, his parents just won't accept that because he hasn't gotten a record deal yet...

They are certainly unpaid. I've had some experience with congressional interns (I was one last summer and lived with a bunch of others), while he's clearly not speaking officially for their Senators, they are definitely informed enough that what he said clearly wasn't an accident. Maybe he's pissed about it too (more likely than an accident), but he's certainly aware. Given the controversy about the subject, I would imagine that he's got a very standardized response.

One thing they certainly do is record all the responses. He's got a tally of how many people called, from where, and what they thought about things even if he doesn't put much effort into responding.

When things are really controversial, they get absolutely flooded. I'm a little disappointed you got through at all. I know I had some friends this summer working in the offices of people on the super committee and they couldn't answer calls fast enough or even clear voice mails fast enough to keep the answering machine open. This tells me that a whole lot less people are calling than are saying they are calling from the internet.

I called the NYC office. I think the regional offices are a bit less swamped. No answer in DC.

Ah. Then it all makes sense.

Cool, I will update the piece with your point.

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