- Representing or serving to represent; specifically acting or speaking, esp., by due authority, in the place of or on behalf of another or others;
- Of, characterized by, or based on, representation of the people by elected delegates
- A person duly authorized to act or speak for another or others (Websters New World)
- Trips to other parts of the world at taxpayers’ expense for no other reason than to enjoy themselves (and maybe to learn something) and to escape visits to their constituencies? Have you ever benefited to any degree by your congressman going on such a jaunt? Of course not; it’s not done for your benefit.
- Political Party ideology getting between the representatives and those represented. The Constitution was written before full blown parties existed; leaving us with a foundational document that sees representatives as legislators, debaters, negotiators, advisors and overseers, but not as Party loyalists who put their party’s ideology before all else.
- The Constitution does not ever mention one of the duties that all representatives find arduous: the raising of funds to support election and re-election; most spend at least half of their time in office doing just that.
- A spin-off of money-raising is the now inordinate time and effort office-seekers and holders must spend with their “sponsors,” and lobbyists, granting access and quality time to them. Elected representatives, who want to be re-elected, must pay attention to them or risk their careers in the Congress, or in whatever office they may hold. Thus, lobbyists and favor-seeking donors, making requests for delay in legislation or for laws and regulations written a certain way, have become the shadow constituency that must be nurtured and placated at almost every turn. In her TV interview, my congresswoman made it quite plain that she spends an inordinate amount of time talking to “constituents” in her Washington office. One has to wonder – to which constituency is she talking?
- Election has also, for some, led to a leadership role, with increased power over process and people, and the all-important influence that can persuade and manipulate others. Just being an elected office-holder tempts some to believe that they are special in some way, and that can lead to self-aggrandizement in some form: inside information that enables shrewd and lucrative investment; the ability to stay in power for an entire career of perhaps 20-30 years.
- Such acquisition of power and influence is often thought to be worthy of special privileges and rewards. Holding elective office is even seen by some as being above the law, whether legal or moral. And voila – scandals and investigations, access to government money, hundreds of great choices for family healthcare, and pension plans not open to ordinary citizens appear on the scene.
- There is also the unique privilege of exemption from provisions of legislation and law that apply to everyone else. Did you know, for instance, that Congress exempted themselves from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)? That’s right. You and I cannot get access, for instance, to a record of their meetings and conversations with their shadow constituency; nor can we access anything that is deemed to be personal property, like a calendar or schedule. Only what is said before Congress or a congressional committee is on the public record and therefore accessible.
Table 1. Roles and Duties of a Member of Congress Identified by Members of the House of Representatives
The very core of meaning for representation lies in the fact that the representative is there as the stand-in or proxy or manifestation of someone else. Losing that core concept is how we got to where we are. We have wrongly allowed congressional representatives to believe that: