A tweet from Google Trends on January 3 declared that a spike in searches for “who is my representative” followed the GOP vote to put the Office of Congressional Ethics under control of the House Ethics Committee last Monday.
Comprised primarily of attorneys and other experts in ethics law, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) was established in 2008 to oversee the ethics of the House of Representatives. The independent, nonpartisan group reviews allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers and their staff and refers cases to the House Ethics Committee when appropriate.
The immediate backlash from Democrats led House Republicans to call an emergency meeting and reverse the proposal before the Congressional session began the next day.
To be put under the control of the House of Representatives would have significantly undermined the ability of the OCE to monitor and report corruption in Congress. The House Ethics Committee in particular has been accused of ignoring credible allegations of misconduct.
Each person in the U.S. is represented by two Senators for their state and one member of the House for their district. A spike in searches for “who is my representative” is indicative of either a seasonal curiosity or of a particular issue causing enough concern to mobilize the public.
Contacting members of Congress is the easiest, most direct way for ordinary people to take action in the government. Anyone can call, email, or even write letters to their representatives in Congress to ask them to support issues that are important to them. Each representative’s staff will tally the number of calls they receive on various issues and put this in a report for the member.
Members of Congress usually decide how to vote based on the issues that are important to the people they represent. If they do not vote according to the wishes of voters, they run the risk of not being reelected for the next term.
It is important for voters to contact their representatives in Congress so that they know which issues their people care about. For example, without supporters of The Borgen Project contacting Congress to ask for the support of anti-poverty legislation, Congress will not grasp the importance of alleviating global poverty to its constituents.
Calling Congress takes less than a minute. The staff member answering the phone may ask for the caller’s name or zip code to verify that they live in the area the member of Congress represents. Contact information for representatives is usually easy to find on their official website.
A Google search trend on its own has no effect on elected members. But every year, thousands of supporters of The Borgen Project across the U.S. regularly call and email Congress in support of anti-poverty legislation. This has led to the passage of the Electrify Africa Act, the Global Food Security Act and the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act in 2016. Many volunteers for The Borgen Project call and email each of their representatives every week.
To learn more about calling Congress and to find your representatives, visit us here or email Congress using one of The Borgen Project’s email templates. It’s as easy as asking “who is my representative”.
– Cassie Lipp