Introduction xix It’s for those who study Congress for a living or as part of their coursework. It’s for those who follow Congress or just like to read about it in the paper or online. It’s for those of us who want to have some idea of who we’re voting for, and it’s for everyone else interested in those who represent our interests. Being an informed voter makes it easier to hold our representatives accountable, to ask the hard questions and solicit the political decisions from our lawmakers. It’s easy to say, “throw the bums out!” or “drain the swamp!” yet those invectives are usually directed to everyone else’s representatives. We often keep reelecting our representatives because they are the devil we know, regardless of indictments or scandals or just plain poor performance. This book is written to encourage us to learn more about our specific Congress- men and Congresswomen and develop communicative relationships with them so that they really do represent us. The book kicks off with a refresher on the rules of the game: the require- ments and responsibilities that our framers laid out when they designed the Legislative Branch, and specifically, the House and the Senate. Our Constitu- tion clearly establishes the criteria necessary to be elected to office, the responsibilities of those in office, and the processes to be followed to remove a member from office if they fail to uphold their responsibilities. All of this was so important to our founders that they placed it at the very beginning of the Constitution so it seemed imperative that we start there as well. Chapter One connects the founders’ initial designs with today’s Congress, looking at how the number of members and the extent to which they represent their constituents, as well as their ability to carry out their assigned duties, were initially conceived compared to what they are today. In our new nation, members represented districts of approximately 30,000 citizens today each one represents almost three-quarters of a million people! How can one person realistically represent that many constituents? Good question! The number of Representatives has been set at 435 since 1929 (the Senate has always had two Senators per state) could we add more members without making the chamber unmanageable? Perhaps it’s time to have that discussion. In Chapter Two, we begin to look at the game itself, as we explore contem- porary Congress as an institution. How do members split their time between Washington D.C. and their home districts? Would you be surprised to learn that members only spend three to four days in their D.C. offices, or that more than half of that time is dedicated to meeting and talking with lobbyists and large donors? Some members have even acknowledged the pay-to-play sys- tem, saying they won’t meet with anyone without a donation first. Others still adhere to an “old school” perspective of public service by opening their offices once a week to have coffee with constituents. All in all, our represen­ tatives work part-time yet we provide them with full-time wages and plati- num perks. To determine what that costs us, we look at over 40 years’ worth of salaries, staffing, and perks of the office and compare that with the
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