WASHINGTON — For a while now, staffers on Capitol Hill have been getting emails every hour from Rep. Steve Stockman, a Texas Tea Party Republican.
This may not end, but it sounds like it probably will.
"The principal individual involved was releasing DC letters every hour, on the hour, for a period of time running into weeks (apparently), in the belief that this was the norm," Nate Pendley, Stockman's chief of staff, told BuzzFeed Thursday. "I am grateful it has been called to my attention before we began to appear even more gauche."
The "DC" Pendley referred to is the "Dear Colleague" system, an internal message board of sorts where members of Congress "tell people about upcoming events, to ask them to sign on to letters, and to tell them about our bills/ask others to cosponsor our bills," according to one staffer familiar with the system.
As with most things on Capitol Hill, there are many unwritten rules of etiquette when it comes to Dear Colleague — the kind of rules that newer lawmakers or staffers can sometimes run afoul of. Stockman, who came back to congress in 2013 after serving one term in the 1990s, has run afoul.
"Most people have a separate folder where they receive these, because it can be between 100-150 a day, but when I clear this folder out, the first thing I do is search for 'Stockman' and then just delete everything that comes up," the staffer, a Democrat, said. "Usually clears out about 20-30."
"You're only supposed to send it to the one to two lists that most align with your bill, but he abuses the systems by sending to three (the limit) every time, whether it is directly in that issue area or not," the staffer said.
A former Republican staffer, asked to characterize the number of Dear Colleagues Stockman's office sends out was surprised at the total.
"That's fucking crazy," the staffer said.
The subject lines of many of Stockman's Dear Colleagues match the conservative's trademark boffo political style.
"Citizens ordered to turn in their guns? In America?" read one. "Cosponsor the the Gun Confiscation and Registration Prevention Act!"
This is not how Dear Colleague letters usually sound.
"Steve Stockman is like the uncle that forwards you paranoid chain emails everyday, except this is Congress," said the current Hill staffer. "Your first inclination is to reply with a link to Snopes, but you know it will only make things worse for you."
Pendley clearly enjoyed being asked about the Dear Colleague system and the unwritten rules of comity in the House Stockman's staff was accused of violating.
"In truth, I had not given it serious thought, nor had I given specific instructions to the person[s] in our office deigning to use that resource," Pendley said. "Having now spoken with those involved, it is clear to me that they did indeed misunderstand the function of the list serve, and had no real appreciation for the unwritten protocol and common courtesies associated with it."
This poem was at the bottom of the Stockman staffer's email:
There once was a staffer in Cannon,
The "Dear Colleague" button was mannin'.
Buzz Feed whined to her Chief
Who told her, "Good grief!"
"Your dear colleague list -- don't be spammin'!"