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Trying to call your Congressman? Good luck with that

Trying to call your Congressman? Good luck with that

THANK YOU TRUMP RALLY - 23-12142016101030

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan introduces Donald Trump in Milwaukee in December.

The election of President Donald Trump and his spate of executive orders and memorandums on immigration, Obamacare, the Dakota Access Pipeline and other hot-button issues have sparked a lot of protests, but they’ve also gotten a lot of voters to pick up the phone.

One woman who emailed the Cap Times said she recently called House Speaker Paul Ryan’s office 28 times in one day, to no avail.

“Every time I got the message that all circuits were busy,” she wrote. “I have tried Ron Johnson’s offices in Milwaukee, Oshkosh, and Washington D.C. and always receive the message that the mailbox is full and I cannot even leave a message. This is happening day after day.”

Ryan spokesman Ian Martorana said the office is receiving an “extremely high volume of calls.”

“Sometimes people have to call multiple times,” he said.

Similar complaints have appeared in news stories and on social media in recent days, putting staffers for Wisconsin lawmakers from both parties on the ropes.

"Just an exponential increase in phone calls from both Republican and Democrat constituents," Eric Harris, spokesman for Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore told TMJ 4 in Milwaukee on Tuesday.

On Monday, Moore accused Republican Sen. Ron Johnson of dodging calls by turning off his phones. 

"Lots of constituent calls today (& last week) on @SenRonJohnson turning off his #DC office phones," she tweeted Monday. "This is a disturbing/ongoing trend."

Johnson's reply: “Our phones are certainly on & being answered. We’re here for all Wisconsinites.”

The overload is a widespread issue. On Tuesday the Washington Post reported that if you call the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about an issue relating to Trump, you get the following message: “If you would like to provide information or make an inquiry relating to President Donald Trump, please press 1.”

Martorana wouldn’t attribute the flurry of calls to Ryan's office to Trump or any other issue relating to the political storms he's unleashed.

“Since Paul’s become speaker he’s obviously become much more visible and therefore received a higher volume of calls,” he said.

Ryan has been speaker since October 2015.

Martorana said Ryan’s office can’t keep up with the spike in telephone traffic, but constituents can still send in emails and letters.

“If these people are constituents, there are a number of other ways that they can contact us and we get back to folks on a regular basis,” he said. “As of the middle of the day today we have sent out over 9,500 individual responses to constituents in the 1st District this month alone.”

And he noted that a call from the Cap Times to Ryan’s general office number was answered and directed to him.

“I think it’s important to mention that the first time you had called you got through,” he said.

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Steven Elbow joined The Capital Times in 1999 and has covered law enforcement in addition to city, county and state government. He has also worked for the Portage Daily Register and has written for the Isthmus weekly newspaper in Madison.

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