Republican senator tells constituent to “cease and desist” calls about Trump
No matter what they may say, politicians don’t always welcome their constituents’ views.
Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson’s office recently threatened police action against a constituent if he did not “cease and desist” calling to criticize Donald Trump.
“This letter acts as written notice of our expectation for you to discontinue your unwarranted telephone calls and office visits,” wrote Johnson’s staff on Senate stationery in a letter dated Feb. 17. The senator’s staff said they would report the 72-year-old Milwaukee man, Earl Good, to the Capitol Police if he failed to comply with the letter. And in a follow-up statement to a local CBS station, the senator’s spokesman said Good had “crosse[d] the bounds of decency.”
Johnson’s office did not answer repeated phone calls and emails asking for examples of such behavior.
After interviewing Good and progressive activists in Wisconsin who have interacted with him at various political events, it seems Good is only guilty of extreme persistence.
Good cops to it. “I’m sure Johnson’s office thinks I’m a pain in their ass or a nuisance,” he told VICE News. His wife is a Trump supporter and agrees with them, he added ruefully.
The retired hospital lab director and Vietnam veteran, who served on the battleship U.S.S. Buck, started calling Johnson’s offices in Wisconsin and Washington a few times a week after Trump’s inauguration.
Good said he always called with a specific issue in mind, like Obamacare, gun background checks, or the defense budget. He also called to express his support for Trump’s pick of General James Mattis for Secretary of Defense. “There have been some times where I stated a position and the staffer laughed,” he said. “This is not a game; these calls are of my own volition.”
Then suddenly he noticed that his calls began going straight to voicemail, especially when he was calling the D.C. office. All congressional office phones are equipped with caller ID.
“Every time I got the voicemail, I would hang up, because I wanted to talk to somebody,” he said. So he called. And called. And called. Sometimes a staffer would pick up and put him on hold until he hung up. One day, he had to call 83 times until a staffer picked up to talk to him.
He went to Johnson’s Milwaukee office and asked to speak to a supervisor about Johnson’s positions on certain issues. When he was told it would be a while, he said he’d wait and asked if the staff could print out Johnson’s press releases so he could study them in the meantime.
Since he received the letter last week, Good says he has so far complied and stopped calling the senator’s offices.
VICE News couldn’t find any other examples of “cease and desist” letters being sent to constituents, but Republicans across both houses of Congress are struggling to respond to the barrage of phone calls into their offices since Congress came into session on Jan. 3.
Established progressive groups like Planned Parenthood and the American Federation of Teachers along with new Resistance startups like Daily Action and 5 Calls have together organized liberals to make over a million calls to members of Congress to protest various aspects of the Trump administration.
“Every left-wing organization is calling my office,” Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas told The Washington Post on Congress’ first day as Republicans considered changing ethics rules.
The phone calls only seem to have ramped up since. One Republican congressmen’s office increased the number of interns and staff members monitoring incoming phone calls from two to 10 in the last month, Politico Playbook reported.
While the Sergeant at Arms’ office said it does not provide statistics on incoming phone calls, Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii tweeted on Feb. 2:
The last three days have been the BUSIEST IN CAPITOL SWITCHBOARD HISTORY. By almost double. This is working. Keep it up and please RT.
— Brian Schatz (@brianschatz) February 2, 2017
Near the end of our interview, Good sheepishly admitted that one time he was so frustrated that he did indeed threaten Johnson’s staff. “If you hang up on me,” he warned, “I’m going to call back.”