‘Citizen Cabinet’ Could Give Lawmakers a Feel for Their Constituents’ Opinions

Posted October 3, 2013 at 6:42pm

Voice of the People, a new non-partisan organization in Washington, announced Thursday its campaign to create a national citizen Cabinet that will allow the opinions of Americans to be heard by Congress.

The organization’s long-term goal is to pass legislation that will establish a “congressionally-chartered national academy for public consultation that will develop a full Citizen Cabinet so that every member of Congress will be able to hear from a representative sample of their constituents,” explained Steven Kull, president and founder of Voice of the People.

Joining the organization’s advisory board are former Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.; former Rep. Michael N. Castle, R-Del.; former Rep. Bill Frenzel, R-Minn.; and former Rep. Martin Frost, D-Texas.

The plan to scientifically-select a sample of 120,000 Americans — 275 from each congressional district throughout the country — will allow those chosen to first be informed by a set of facts agreed upon by experts on both sides.

It is critical for citizens to be educated on the issues, Castle elaborated, as research has shown that many of the conclusions individuals come to are based on incorrect information.

By considering other obligations a member may have to a committee and his or her party, citizens will arrive at a conclusive opinion that can be broken down by state and congressional district for legislative use.

Kull said the ability to inform members in the House and Senate of their constituents’ opinions could potentially alleviate political dysfunction in Washington including events like this week’s government shutdown.

“We have splintered politics, special interests, general discontent in our country. There’s a crescendo of noise coming from big money in our political system. There’s incessant shouting by puffed-up politicians. There’s a screech of political pundits that tell us what is wrong but the voice of the people is rarely heard,” said Dorgan.

Despite using technology, the citizen Cabinet will not replace all types of communications between representatives and their constituents.

“People will still find a way to talk to their representatives and the representatives will find lots of ways to engage the people but this is a special way, a dispassionate way,” said Frenzel.