- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 27, 2003

An anti-war "virtual march" yesterday aimed at Capitol Hill led to a deluge of phone calls to some lawmakers' offices but barely had an effect on others.
Although organizers of the Virtual March on Washington said 120,000 people had registered with the anti-war Web site www.moveon.org to call Capitol Hill, some offices there reported only moderately more traffic than usual. Others, such as the office of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, had six operators answering continuously ringing lines.
"We're not overwhelmed," said Feinstein spokesman Howard Gantman, "but we've had a lot of calls."
Those unable to get through crowded Senate circuits took to calling Ms. Feinstein's four home offices.
Two harried operators answering calls in the office of Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell, Colorado Republican, were less sanguine.
"Today is a rough day," said one, before punching another buzzing line.
The protest was organized by the Web site, which was founded in 1998 by California software developers Wes Boyd and Joan Blades to oppose President Clinton's impeachment. It has become a force in Democratic Party politics because of its ability to raise millions of dollars through the Internet.
"Think of it as a march one by one, we'll be passing through our senators' offices and the offices of the White House to let them know how we feel about this war," said a statement on the Web site.
Most callers were polite, staffers said.
"They've been friendly and nice, just voicing their opinion," said Aimee Futch, an operator for Sen. James M. Inhofe, Oklahoma Republican. A staff member for Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, reported few college students but many elderly people on the lines.
"A lot of the people were reading off scripts," he said, "and many of them were moms at home with their children."
An operator for Sen. Olympia J. Snowe, Maine Republican, said the phones began ringing 9 a.m.
"I don't think I've put down the phone since I've come in," Thom Clarke said.
Staff for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, were likewise busy.
"This is the heaviest volume of calls we've ever received," spokesman Jim Manley said. "[Operators] are juggling five lines each. This [reaction] is up there with the impeachment."
A woman answering calls for Sen. Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, pointed to five flashing lines on her console.
"I haven't even been able to take off my coat," she said. Two operators for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan Democrat, were busily tallying hundreds of calls.
"We don't have time for comments," one explained to a caller. "The phones are ringing off the hook today."
But staff for Sen. Mike DeWine, Ohio Republican, said the volume 1,000 calls hardly overwhelmed.
"We've been bogged down like this before," spokeswoman Amanda Flaig said, "such as during the [Attorney General John] Ashcroft nomination and the impeachment hearings."
Andy Davis, spokesman for Sen. Ernest F. Hollings, South Carolina Republican, called the anti-war reaction "mild."
"We were expecting higher amounts," he said.
So did staff for Sen. Michael D. Crapo, Idaho Republican. "Impeachment [calls] were worse," one staff member added, "because both sides of the issue were calling."


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