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‘Dear Senator: I Don’t Have Time To Tell You How Outraged I Am’

February 16, 1995

Democracy can be so darn time-consuming. But Karl and Diane Woods are here to help.

The Silver Spring, Md., couple recently launched a service for harried citizens who have something to say to their elected leaders but are squeezed for time to say it. For $11.95, the Woodses will compose letters reflecting your feelings on a national or local issue, return them for a readthrough and a personal signature, and then send them off in your name to your governor, congressman, senator _ even the White House.

``Woods Enterprises wants to put the power back where it belongs _ in the hands of the people _ by acting as a private secretary to their clients,″ say their ads, which run in small newspapers.

Mr. Woods, an equipment technician at the U.S. Postal Service, launched the complaint-by-proxy business with his wife last summer, while off work with a medical problem. ``I know from my own experience, you work, you have family obligations, there’s a great big time crunch for most people,″ he says. ``I’m just trying to give them time to get to their representatives without taking too much time.″ He adds that the enterprise is nonpartisan.

Though business has been slower than expected, the Woodses have had a few successes. Lillian Strawn, a Republican in Clarksville, Va., hired the firm to draft a letter complaining that the line-item veto proposed in the ``Contract With America″ isn’t strong enough. Addressees included Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, Virginia Sens. John Warner and Charles Robb and House Speaker Newt Gingrich. ``If this is an example of what is to come,″ Ms. Strawn’s letter states, ``the Contract With America will not amount to anything more than the proverbial hill of beans.″

Reading that over, Ms. Strawn laughs. ``I really didn’t see that pun until I looked at it again,″ she says. ``Hill of beans. Like Capitol Hill. Isn’t that marvelous?″

Not to government watchdogs. ``The fact that citizens can’t take time to write a letter to their members of Congress is certainly reason for concern,″ says Josh Goldstein, project director at the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks money and policy issues.

But Mr. Woods says there is no way to tell whether a letter originated with him. ``There’s no logo or anything else,″ he says. ``It has nothing to connect it to a company. How are you going to know?″

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