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DC Power Shift: Ugly in its efficiency

Dec 10, 2010 10:24 am
The Times Union this morning has one of those stories that outlines how things really work beneath the idealistic veneer of modern politics. It's about how outgoing U.S. Rep. Scott Murphy, the Democrat who lost re-election to retired Marine Chris Gibson, a Republican riding the recent wave that shifted control of Congress in November, has been evicted from his Washington D.C. office, where callers can no longer leave a message, making it hard for constituents in the 20th Congressional District to reach the representative. The story goes on to point out how Murphy, 40, "is only one among scores of politicians who still have duties to perform even after their constituents voted them out, and has had to move with another 80 or so lame duck members of the House to a cubicle city set up in a banquet room in the basement of the Rayburn Office Building. And to make matters worse, even though votes are continuing over the coming weeks, and constituents back home still want representation, the General Services Administration has told Murphy he would not be able to retrieve messages left on the voice mail in his D.C. office, and all but one of his district offices have closed by order of the GSA... leaving only the one in Saratoga Springs -- where the voice mailbox was full Thursday afternoon.

In the meantime, Murphy's office is suggesting constituents call their U.S. Senators... although that's not an option in some other states now left without any Democrats in federal office.

Murphy's chief of staff, Todd Schulte, said the General Services Administration told him he would not be able to retrieve messages left on the voice mail in the office. All but one of Murphy's district offices have closed by order of the GSA, except the one in Saratoga Springs -- where the voice mailbox was full Thursday afternoon.

Schulte said, ideally, constituents should call the Saratoga office, which is staffed. The voice mailbox was overwhelmed by people who called about the tax cut legislation, he said.

"Any implication people aren't around and working is inaccurate," Schulte said.

The outgoing message on the voice mail at Murphy's former office in Washington, D.C. tells callers to contact senators Kirsten Gillibrand or Charles Schumer for assistance, or to call Steve Stallmer, who will be chief of staff for Congressman-elect Chris Gibson. Stallmer said he has spoken to Schulte frequently since the election and the transition is going smoothly. He said he told Schulte to give out his cell phone number to people who want to contact Gibson, but he did not expect to hear it recorded on Murphy's voice mail.

"The problem is, I'm getting calls at all hours from people trying to find Mr. Murphy," Stallmer said.

Schulte said he was in the process of having the message changed and the Saratoga Springs office number added. It is 581-8247.

Other Election Day losers in the New York delegation are handling the issue differently. The voice mail at Dutchess County Rep. John Hall's Washington, D.C. office is full. The outgoing message for Rep. Mike Arcuri in Washington, D.C. says to call his Utica office where a staffer picks up the phone, and a staff member picked up the Washington, D.C. line of Rep. Dan Maffei, D-Syracuse.

Gibson, meanwhile, is assembling staff for when he takes office in January. Stallmer said the congressman-elect will take over Murphy's Glens Falls office at 136 Glen St. but has found different office space elsewhere in the district -- including Saratoga Springs, where Gibson will have an office on Broadway.

Stallmer would not say where, but it will not be the office occupied by Murphy and his predecessor, Kirsten Gillibrand.
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