To Serve the People: Congress and Constituency Service

To Serve the People: Congress and Constituency Service

To Serve the People: Congress and Constituency Service

To Serve the People: Congress and Constituency Service

Excerpt

Students of Congress rightfully have devoted most of their attention to the legislature's policymaking and oversight functions. Thus the literature abounds with books and articles on leadership, committees, and roll call voting behavior. Only in the last decade has attention seriously focused on the linkage between members of Congress and their constituents. Congressmen's representative styles and activities have come under scrutiny, but seldom systematically. Casework -- helping constituents with their encounters with the federal bureaucracy -- surely is central to the way congressmen relate to their constituents, but for some reason scholars virtually have ignored it. With the exception of a handful of articles written in the 1960s, students of Congress have little detailed information about this burgeoning function. And only with an explosion of research efforts on congressional elections in recent years have scholars sought to explore the theoretically interesting correlates and consequences of constituency service work. A desire to fill the descriptive void, and to do it analytically to address those more fundamental implications of casework, accounts for the appearance of this book.

Actually, there is a simpler and less profound reason for the six years of effort represented here. On a spring day in 1976, a colleague was advising a student who wanted to do an internship in the office of a Milwaukee congressman. Not a specialist on Congress, he asked me what readings were available to assign on the subject of constituency service. My answer was, "Not much." His rejoinder hit home: "Why don't you do something about it?" Little did either of us know then that his invitation would yield this book.

My debts for this manuscript run wide. Marquette University's Committee on . . .

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