Have you noticed every other year at this time your local member of Congress takes a keen interest in your opinions while listing the wonderful things they’re doing for you in our nation’s capital? It comes in the form of a glossy mailing, made possible by your taxpaying generosity. Since public funds can’t be used for campaign purposes, you’re expected to believe the arrival of these mailings shortly before the next election is purely coincidental.
The mailers all seem to carry the same message, showing how the incumbent’s priorities perfectly capture the prevailing political winds. After recounting the many ways they’re looking out for you, the officeholders ask for your feedback in a brief opinion survey.
The questions are cleverly designed to confirm the politician’s own position or to persuade you to agree with positions they’ve already taken. A loaded question like, “Do you believe Congress should grant amnesty as a pathway to citizenship to the 12-20 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States?” leaves little doubt about your expected response when you’re confined to a yes or no answer.
That’s the first question on the survey in Rep. Brian Bilbray’s latest mailing to his 50th District constituents. Pictures of a border patrol officer peering through binoculars at the Great Wall of San Diego in the distance grace both the front and back covers.
A full page is devoted to illegal immigration, topped by a picture of the “Caution/Prohibido” freeway sign, warning drivers to watch out for families of three crossing in traffic, pigtails flying.
After trumpeting his co-sponsorship, with 155 others, of a bill languishing in Congress that would require employers to use technology to detect the misuse of Social Security numbers, he declares he supports the building of a border fence that’s already under construction and rejects amnesty “in any form.”
By comparison, he gives short shrift to strengthening the economy or balancing the budget, which he apparently believes can be done simply by opposing all tax increases.
To show he’s fighting to reduce gas prices, he joined 325 others from both parties to pass a bill suspending shipments to the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
First on his list for how we can stop rising gas prices is his call for an increase in the supply of American oil and gas. Last is encouraging conservation, amounting to a nod to the tree huggers and a wink to big oil.
The mailer invites us to sign up for the congressman’s Surf Report E-newsletter, “a weekly updated report allowing you to follow the issues that are important to you.” The newsletter archive, however, reveals that only one report has been published this year and only eight in the previous two years.
Of the nine newsletters, seven are devoted primarily to the issue of illegal immigration.
The failure of Bilbray to provide the timely reports he promised raises the question of whether he’s been doing much of anything for his constituents, other than the San Diego Minutemen, since 2006.
Richard J. Riehl is a resident of Carlsbadistan. Email him at RiehlWorld2@yahoo.com