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Why Can't You Reach Mark Kirk's Office?

By Kevin Robinson in News on Dec 14, 2010 2:00PM

Even with opposable thumbs, the pooch in this photo by ALA Washington Office might not have been able to reach Kirk's staff by phone.
Last week phone lines to congressional offices were burning up, as activists on both sides of the political divide were calling their senators and representatives, urging them to vote for or against an extension of the Bush era tax cuts, the Don't Ask Don't Tell repeal, the DREAM Act and an extension of unemployment benefits for out of work Americans. Among the senators who were frequently listed in emails blasts and Facebook posts as needing to hear from constituents was newly-minted Illinois Senator Mark Kirk. Unfortunately, some Illinoisans had trouble reaching Kirk's staff.

Facebook and Twitter posts pointed out the difficulty in reaching Kirk, complaining that his voice mailbox was full. Others noted the difficulty in locating Kirk's contact information. (I only found his Washington, D.C. phone number with a Google search last week.) We called and emailed Kirk's press liaison Lance Trover asking for an explanation. Perhaps indicative of the problems Kirk is having communicating with his constituency, calls and emails from Chicagoist went unreturned.

On Saturday the Chicago Tribune ran an article explaining that the Sergeant at Arms, which is responsible for space and facilities in Congress, among other duties, had a new phone system installed prior to the election, and that, coupled with a "new office, new system and new staff," left constituents unable to reach Kirk.

In addition to the difficulties that Illinoisans had reaching Kirk's office, he's coming under some criticism for asking voters to email him about how they'd like him to vote on the Obama-McConnell tax compromise. Sun-Times Washington correspondent Lynn Sweet dings Kirk for inaccurately describing the legislation, in terms broad and sweeping.

Kirk incorrectly describes the deal in his e-mail, when he makes a reference, not by name to the Bush era tax cuts that would expire at the end of the year if not extended. No one--Democrat or Republican--suggested that the breaks expire and taxes go up for all income brackets. At issue is whether the tax cuts should be extended for the wealthy. Obama and Democrats had wanted to extend the break to earners with incomes below $250,000 but as part of the compromise, Obama gave that up.

Kirk's explanation is just not accurate because it is so sweeping: "While many support this bipartisan bill, some House leaders say this legislation is misguided and taxes should go up."

Did you have trouble reaching Mark Kirk last week? Do you think asking constituents to email him hours before the vote is a legitimate way to solicit feedback from voters? Let us know in the comments.