Writing to Your Congressman Can Work

I always thought that writing to congressmen was something that wasn't really taken seriously. I assumed that they get so much email from crazy people that there is probably such a low signal to noise ratio that nothing would be read. Still, even though SOPA has been defeated, PIPA was still a threat. I gave it a shot. I'm pleased to say that I was wrong. Here was the first response.

Subject: Senator Menendez Message Confirmation
From: "Senator Robert Menendez" <Senator_Menendez@menendez.senate.gov>
Date: Wed, January 25, 2012 7:15 pm
To: [My Email]

Dear Friend,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. Your comments are very important to me, and I wanted to confirm with you that I have received your message. All communications I receive are registered and sorted by my office, and I will try to respond to you as quickly as possible.

If you have contacted me about an individual issue that you are having with a federal or state agency that requires immediate assistance please contact my Newark, NJ office directly at 973-645-3030.

Sincerely,Senator Robert Menendez

Please do not reply to this e-mail as this address is not monitored. To contact my office, please use the contact form found on my website at http://menendez.senate.gov/contact/

It was a generic form letter. I expected a form letter; he's way too busy to respond to every individual email. Also, I assumed that I was one of the many who was filed under "crazy" because Senator Menendez was one of the original co-sponsors of PIPA. (PIPA is an acronym for the PROTECT IP Act of 2011, which is an acronym for "Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011.")

I wasn't expecting the next email, though.

Subject: Senator Menendez Message Confirmation
From: "Senator Robert Menendez" <Senator_Menendez@menendez.senate.gov>
Date: Thu, January 26, 2012 2:52 pm
To: [My Email]

Menendez Banner

Dear [contrapants]:

Thank you for taking the time to weigh in on the Protect IP Act (PIPA). The debate about intellectual property and the freedom of the internet has brought to light the valid concerns of thousands of citizens who normally remain on the sidelines, but who have a deep and abiding concern in preserving the integrity of the internet.

Your interest, and the interest of thousands like you who have contacted my office by phone, through e-mails, Facebook posts, or Tweets, has been loud and clear. That's why I told the Senate leadership that I could not support the legislation. This is what a healthy democracy in action looks like in the digital age. I'm proud that my voice could be your voice in Congress.

From a highschooler who said that many of his core principles are aligned with mine, but felt this piece of legislation may prevent the next Arab Spring from happening – to a businessman who said we cannot risk alienating our young people by passing a bill they do not support – I heard you New Jersey. And what you told me was clear: you felt this legislation as drafted would constrain free speech, curtail innovation and discourage new digital distribution methods.

I believe we have to protect free speech on the internet, but we also have to prevent the theft of intellectual property from the people who create it. You have made me and many others realize that we need new legislation that can do both – we can protect our creators without limiting the endless possibilities of a free, open, and fair internet.

America's best and brightest created the internet and changed the world. And American ingenuity, creativity, and hard work developed the world's best medicine, music, art, movies, fashion and have made extraordinary scientific breakthroughs. So I am confident, moving forward, Americans can come together to protect the freedom of the internet and, at the same time, protect intellectual property from piracy.

Again, this is your victory. I'm proud to represent a state where the constituents take their civic responsibility seriously and engage so passionately in the democratic process.

Menendez Signature

I know both emails were sent after both SOPA and PIPA were "postponed indefinitely" on January 20, 2012 (55 For, 205 Against at time of writing), but I like to think that all the emails helped reinforce the Web Blackout Protest on January 18, 2012.

In case he ever sees this, thank you, Robert Menendez.