If you find yourself wondering why Congress is such a mess, just try getting a response from someone in the office of Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.). For a follow-up story and white-paper I’m writing, I was ready to praise the Senator but first had some questions. I tried for more than a week with no success.
When Feinstein learned that some of the National Governing Bodies of sports, as well as the U.S. Olympic Committee, failed to report potential criminal sexual abuse activity covered by existing laws, she introduced the Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act last month, known as the Safe Sport Act.
That legislation amends the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act and required that all allegations of sex abuse be promptly reported to local or federal law enforcement. When the House of Representatives passed her bill, she said “It’s great news the House has passed companion legislation to my bill to protect young athletes from sexual abuse. … We must do all we can to protect children.”
I was ready to compliment Sen. Feinstein for her intention, but she failed in the bill’s execution because her amendment protects only children in Olympic sports. Because her bill amended the Sports Act, I contacted Michael Harrigan, who directed the President’s Commission on Olympic Sports. The Sports Act was based 100 percent on the report of the PCOS in 1972. Harrigan was one of the few authors of the Sports Act and solely responsible for developing its strategy.
It’s regrettable that neither Feinstein nor anyone on her staff talked to Mr. Harrigan because he told me that the Sports Act already protects young boys and girls who compete in Olympic and Pan Am Games sports regulated by the USOC.
“The National Governing Bodies of the sports involved and the USOC already have the authority and responsibility to report any alleged sexual abuse complaint to the police,” Harrigan said.
Sen. Feinstein’s amendment does not include the millions of young children competing in sports not regulated by the USOC. No one on the Senator’s staff would tell me why Harrigan was not contacted or if they considered amending the Clery Act or introducing a comprehensive bill that would protect all children.
Several times over two days I called Feinstein’s main number and received a recorded message: “We are experiencing a high volume of calls. You can hold for two minutes and then will be disconnected. Please call back later.”
Press releases from her office failed to list any name or contact information. Is this customer service? The term is an oxymoron in government, and it's getting so bad that soon it will be non-existent.
The Los Angeles field office gave me the main number of the press office but no email contacts. Things got worse when a woman named Sidney told me that Ashley Shapitl, the press secretary, was out and it was the office’s policy not to give anyone her phone number or email address. She also had no idea who the legislative assistant was for the Senator. After playing a game of 20 questions, Sidney said: “someone will be in contact with you.”
Sidney refused to even give me her own email address so I could send her my questions that she could forward to her boss and the legislative assistant. I’m still waiting for someone in Sen. Feinstein’s press office or staff to call or email me.
The behavior of Sen. Feinstein’s office could be yet another example of how Congress gets nothing accomplished, even on non-partisan issues. No one wants to be available, responsible or accountable. Rep. Henry Cuellar (R-Texas) recognized this when he introduced the Government Customer Service Improvement Act in 2012. His bill is a sad commentary on society today, given that legislation is now needed to remind public servants to practice common courtesy and to combat their rudeness, inefficiency, lack of professionalism and incompetency.
Maybe the libertarians are right: if the government employees can’t do their jobs, we should simply eliminate them and cut the budget.
Rene A. Henry writes on a variety of subjects including customer service, sports, and crisis. He spent 10 years of his professional career in federal service at senior appointee and career levels. His book, “Customer Service — the Cornerstone of Success,” is a must read for everyone in Sen. Feinstein’s office.