Last week, Noelle Ptomey, of Cedar Bluffs, Nebraska, attempted to email Congressman Lee Terry using an email form on his website. She wanted to tell Terry that she was upset that he and other Nebraska elected officials did not attend the final State Department hearing on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline in Grand Island. But when Ptomey entered her zip code into the Terry website’s comment form, she found that she was blocked because she does not live in his district.
Ptomey e-mailed Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, who encouraged her to call Terry’s office to voice her concerns. Kleeb also forwarded Ptomey’s email to Common Cause and the Associated Press (AP), which picked up the story. Ptomey told the AP that she called Terry’s office “to say how discouraging it was to know that our elected officials are trying to filter emails and only hear from the people in their district.”
Terry spokesman, Larry Farnsworth, explained that the filter was only meant to redirect constituents to their own congressman. Kleeb countered that congressmen are elected to represent their district but often address matters of statewide and national concern. Congressman Terry recently introduced a bill to force approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, by removing the permitting authority from the State Department and transferring it to the Department of Energy. The pipeline route does not affect Terry’s district.
In response to the AP story, Terry’s website was quickly modified to allow anyone with concerns to use the email form to contact the congressman. “This is a perfect example of how citizen action works,” said Kleeb. Lee Terry was first elected to the US Congress in 1998. Since then, he has introduced numerous bills but won passage of only one—a bill to rename a post office in Omaha.
Anyone, regardless of district, can now contact Rep. Lee Terry using the email form on his website: