Mike Lee’s “Busy” Year

Mike LeeDerek Willis over at The Upshot had a little fun at Congress’ expense, Do-Nothing Congress? These Members Did Something (Annual Reports). Since Congress doesn’t really pass any legislation and since earmarks are gone, it’s hard for our representatives in Congress to show that they’ve actually been working. So some of them are producing yearly reports.

Actually, I’m not against this at all. Reports are useful. For example, most Californians don’t know that our Senator Boxer is the chair of the Environment and Public Works committee. So it’s good to let the people know what these people are doing. But in a great example of professional level snark, Willis wrote, “Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, was among the members of Congress who wrote an annual report to detail his activities. At 357 pages, it included all his tweets from 2013.”

Of course, that’s not all that Mike Lee has been up to. After all, since 2009, he’s only tweeted out 2,763 such delights as this:

What does he fill up all those pages with? Well, for one thing: letters. Not ones he wrote, of course. Ha! That would be too time consuming. Ones he signed. (That can be exhausting depending upon the weight of the pen.) For example, he signed, “Letter to President Obama on the Russian Adoption Ban” (May 31, 2013). And that was just him—and 153 others. But still.

There are also a number of press releases. For example, would you believe that Mike Lee introduced a Balanced Budget Amendment? Who would have thought? Probably the reason you didn’t hear about is because it didn’t go anywhere because its purpose was the same as most of what Mike Lee does: publicize Mike Lee and what a great guy he is. Everyone loves the idea of a balanced budget. The fact that it is a terrible idea is why we haven’t enacted one.

Lee also has a lot of “reactions.” Like on 26 Jun 2013, he was “disappointed” that the Supreme Court didn’t understand that fags getting married was gonna ruin it for all the good God fearing straight couples around. He also sponsored measures like S 1616 that was, “Read twice and referred to the Committee on Finance.” That’s as far as it got, but you know: that’s about as far as Mike Lee ever gets. Did I mention he hates fags?

After about a hundred pages of that, we get to the sexy stuff: Constituent Outreach. That’s where we learn in one nifty info graphic that Mike Lee provided 81,089 written responses. If you’ve ever asked for a response from a representative, you know that these are written by computers. His “mobile office” visited 29 counties. He sent 5,850 letters to Boy Scouts, which I don’t think has anything to do with the Boy Scout pedophilia scandals. He had 629 meetings with constituents. I wonder: does that include lobbyists? Because if it does, that’s probably 621 lobbyist meetings and 8 meetings with actual voters. But I’m cynical.

A total of 311,544 “mail” was received. What does that mean? I don’t know. It must be mostly email messages. And I doubt it matters. But what does matter—and it matters a lot—is that Lee has distributed 1,150 servings of Jell-O. I have no idea what that’s about, but it creeps me out. I don’t think I will ever again be able to eat that delicious dessert.

And on it goes. It includes letters from constituents who tell Mike Lee that he is doing a hell of a job. And there is one letter from a young child who seems to be about in the third grade. The letter is about how this child would really like Lee to do something about Obamacare. Why? “I am against paying for some else’s insurance.” And you thought the Jell-O was creepy! Even better: Mike Lee’s office does not block the name or address of this poor child who I’m sure is not responsible for the letter. It is rather too specific. What 8-year-old says, “Have a good one!”?

There is also an infographic on media outreach where we learn that his website gets 41,392 average visits per month. That shocked me! That’s about half of the number of people who visit Frankly Curious, which is (you know) a tiny blog. But there were 18 occasions on which editors were so desperate that they allowed Mike Lee to write an editorial. And then it ends with his twitter feed.

There is no conclusion—nothing to wrap up the important work that Mike Lee did last year. Which I think is the proper conclusion. Because having gone through the whole report—page by page—it doesn’t seem like he did much. There is a lot of repetition. For example, press releases at the beginning are shown pretty much unaltered at the end under “media outreach.” After 357 pages, I think Mike Lee is a slacker.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

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