Election 2016

Sen. Toomey didn’t answer calls, so now there’s a website you can use to ‘Snail Mail Congress’

“If Pat Toomey had picked up the phone I clearly wouldn’t have done this.”

Snail-Mail-TOomey
WIKIMEDIA COMMONS AND TWIITER VIA @RYANEPP AND @SMAILCONGRESS
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Sen. Pat Toomey’s penchant for being impossible to reach has leaped from annoyance to cottage industry — at least for one former Philly resident living in Lancaster.

Software developer Ryan Epp has started a side project that will make it easier for people to contact U.S. Congress members by snail mail after Toomey’s office failed to communicate with him. The product, snailmailcongress.com, shows users their Senator and local congress member when they enter their address and sends a letter with any message they submit on the website.

“You can’t get through to Pat Toomey,” he said. “It was just an unserved need.”

Epp, a Temple graduate, stresses the service is bipartisan and is about contacting any member of Congress for any reason. But the roots of this project grew out of the busy signals everyone got from Toomey.

When Betsy DeVos was under consideration for secretary of education last month, Toomey’s office lines were burning up. He received 8,000-plus faxes in a matter of days, and Epp was among the many constituents frustrated by the lack of response to phone calls.

“I called 25 times in one day and then it would only ring once and then go to voicemail or a busy tone,” he said. “So I don’t know if it turned off or they blocked me.”

Epp had read that, in addition to phone calls, letters were a productive way of getting your point across to congressional offices. He decided to write a letter but didn’t have any stamps or envelopes. When he scanned the internet for letter-sending services, he couldn’t find any that would easily send a letter to Congress members (such a service does exist for faxes).

So Epp decided to create one.

Snail Mail Congress lets users type a personal message and then formats the letter so it looks professional before sending it to the Congress member of their choice. The cost is $1.28, which Epp claims is solely for supplies and a third-party service he has contracted with if the volume of letters goes beyond what he can handle, which he expects to be about 200 a week.

For now — the service just launched Monday — he’s printing all the letters, writing the addresses on the envelopes and mailing them himself.

“That’s kind of like the ‘Oh crap’ cut off,” he said. “We’ll see how my tongue is feeling after 100 letters.”

If Snail Mail Congress starts attracting that kind of volume, he hopes to lower the price as much as possible. Though he wasn’t able to connect with Toomey’s office, he can at least thank the Senator for the idea.

“Oh yeah,” Epp said. “If Pat Toomey had picked up the phone I clearly wouldn’t have done this.”

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