WASHINGTON: News that Sen. Tom Daschle's (D-SD) office received a
letter laced with Anthrax resulted in the cessation of all mail delivery
to Congress last Monday. Sensing both an opportunity and an obligation,
Capitol Advantage, a public affairs vendor that facilitates electronic
communication with Congress, leapt into action.
Within hours of the shutdown, the firm had sent scores of e-mails to
media organizations providing them with a "sticker" they could place on
their websites that, when clicked, would allow users to e-mail their
senators and representatives. Capitol Advantage also sent reminders to
customers - mostly advocacy groups and nonprofits - and the general
public that they could e-mail legislators via Congress.org.
"We're Americans too," said marketing coordinator Eric Welch. "We don't
want to take advantage of this situation, but we do want to provide this
service." Welch added that Capitol Advantage sees no profits from
Public affairs experts and members of Congress themselves have long
considered e-mail an inferior, if not ineffective, method for contacting
A study released last year by the Congress Online Project even suggested
that an overwhelming influx of e-mail was disabling Congress' fragile
internet system, and was going unanswered to boot. But in the wake of
Monday's events, several members of Congress, including Paul Wellstone
(D-MN), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mike Enzi (R-WY), encouraged constituents
to contact them electronically.
Although numbers were not available as of press time, Capitol Advantage
claimed that the website received a significant jump in visitors in the
hours following the shutdown.