More Than 100 Diverse Groups Call on Congress to Immediately Disable Technology that Blocks E-Mails from Constituents

June 19, 2006

More Than 100 Diverse Groups Call on Congress to Immediately Disable Technology that Blocks E-Mails from Constituents

Common Cause has signed on to the following letter. A diverse collection of nonprofit and advocacy groups representing a broad spectrum of political views and issues called upon members of Congress today to stop using a new computer program which enables members' Web sites to block e-mail communications from constituents.

Dear Representative,

We recently learned that congressional offices may be implementing new technology that will effectively block email communications from constituents to their Representatives. While you may not yet be aware of this technology, more than 100 organizations from across the political and ideological spectrum strongly urge you not to implement this new function. If your office has begun using it, we request that you disable it.

This technology, called 'Logic Puzzle,' enables congressional offices to block email from constituents. This tool would block millions of constituent messages from people who expect you-and elected you-to listen to them. We believe the use of such technology, to limit communications between the public and elected officials, is wrong and a real threat to democratic principles.

We ask instead that you agree to work in a public, open and bipartisan way with nonprofits and other organizations to improve Congress' handling of email communications for both your benefit and the benefit of your constituents. While we understand and sympathize with the growing demand on congressional staff posed by increasing volumes of email, blocking emails from your constituents that flow through organizations is not a solution, and in fact is a very significant threat to our democratic process.

If your office has implemented this technology, your constituents see the following message (or a similar variant) before they can write to you:

Unfortunately, with the advent of email communication, some organizations have begun to use automated programs to send messages to Congress on behalf of constituents -- better known as "SPAM." To prevent this practice we ask that you answer the question below. When you enter the correct response it ensures that the message is coming from a real person and helps your Representative respond to you as quickly as possible.

Advocacy and nonprofit organizations that represent public opinion and develop policy proposals-from across the entire political spectrum-increasingly use the Internet to help their members communicate with you on issues they care about. These emails are not spam. They are generated by the individuals themselves using Web-based technologies.

Congressional attempts to differentiate among constituent communications-accepting only unorganized communications but blocking communications where individuals are working together to deliver a strong message-raise dangerous questions about the infringement of constituents' First Amendment rights and are a disservice to you as their representative. They also denigrate the important role that organizations play in the political process. Individual citizens, who raise their voices together, with the support and leadership of organizations they choose to join for that purpose, are driving democracy - not peddling spam.

When constituents write to members of Congress via our Web-based technologies, and they receive a response, people's faith in the democratic process and their own ability to participate is reinforced. The Internet provides a new generation of civic-minded Americans an education in effective democracy and the ability to speak clearly and together about their most deeply held beliefs and concerns. Organizations like ours are legitimate participants in that online forum, where people come together, formulate ideas about their issues, and then communicate with you.

In this modern communication environment, people expect members of Congress to accept and respond to electronic messages, despite the administrative burden that may pose. We recognize the challenge that you face, and we would like to work with you, your staff and the congressional IT staff to improve the way Congress receives constituent messages. We want to ensure that all constituent messages get to you and work with you towards long-term solutions that will facilitate your work sorting and responding to such messages. Please contact Kathy Mitchell, with Consumers Union, (512) 477-4431, ext. 113, Allison Kozak, with Earthjustice, (510) 550-6708 or Jeff Dircksen, with the National Taxpayers Union, (703) 683-5700 for more information.

On behalf of the following organizations:


American Arts Alliance

American Association of Law Libraries

American Association of People with Disabilities

American Association of University Women

American Civil Liberties Union

American Conservative Union

American Family Association

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)

American Federation of Teachers

American Jewish World Service

American Library Association

American Lung Association

American Postal Workers Union, AFL-CIO

American Rights at Work

American Rivers

Appalachian Mountain Club

Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law

C3: Colorectal Cancer Coalition

Call to Renewal

Campaign to Restore Jackson State Redwood Forest


Center for a New American Dream

Center for Economic Progress

Children Now

Children's Campaign, Inc.

Citizen Outreach

Common Knowledge

Citizens for Missouri's Children

Clean Water Action

Communications Workers of America

Consumer Federation of America

Consumers Union

Defenders of Wildlife

Democracy for America

Democracy in Action



Dharma Cloud Charitable Foundation Trust

Drug Policy Alliance

Drug Reform Coordination Network




Electronic Arts

Electronic Frontier Foundation

Equal Rights Washington

Equality Illinois

Equality North Carolina

Equality Texas

Fairfax County Privacy Council

Families USA

Free Press

Free Range

Greenpeace USA

In Defense of Animals

Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet

International Federation of Professional &

Technical Engineers

Internet Advocacy Center

Kansas Association of Realtors

Kansas City Anti-Violence Project

League of Conservation Voters

M+R Strategic Services

Medical Group Management Association

National Air Traffic Controllers Association

National Congress of Vietnamese Americans

National Council of Nonprofit Associations

National Environmental Trust

National Independent Advocate National

Nuclear Victims for Justice

National Parks Conservation Association

National Taxpayers Union

National Wildlife Federation

NARAL Pro-Choice America

New Jersey Audubon SocietyNew Mexico Wilderness Alliance

New Organizing Institute

New York - New Jersey Trail Conference

Oxfam America


Nuclear Information and Resource Service


OMB Watch/Focus Project

Oxfam America

Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters

People for the American Way

Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Polly Klaas Foundation

Rad Campaign

Scenic America

Service Employees International Union


Stem Cell Political Action Coalition

The Center for Democracy and Technology

The Center for Food Safety

The Humane Society of the United States

The Wilderness Society

Triangle Foundation

United Cerebral Palsy

United Farmworkers

US Public Interest Research Group

Women's Funding Network

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