Members of Congress are famous for constituent service. They will get you a grant, solve your Social Security problems, dam your river, appoint you to a military academy.
Rep. Majorie S. Holt (R-Md.), a four-term veteran of the House, has come up with a new way to help a constituent: rent his home to a member of Congress.
Holt's wrinkle came to like this week when she sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to every member of the House, extolling the appeal of a waterfront deckhouse a constituent wants to lease for $800 a month.
"I have been contacted by constituents who are being transferred to the Far East and wish to rent their home for the period that they are away," the letter read.
Holt suggested that interested legislators could contact her administrative assistant, Wini Steadley, at her Capitol Hill office for further details.
Does this mean that Holt is running a central-listing service for home-hunters?
No, Steadley explained, Holt has not gone into the real estate business. "We're just trying to help a constituent, that's all," she said. "We try to take all our constituent service to the ultimate. Mrs. Holt is famous for that."
Ordinarily, a "Dear Colleague" letter is used by House and Senate members to seek support for legislation, to explain a position on an issue to advertise an official briefing or similar event.
The paper, the printing, the manpower -- all are paid for through the member's expense account for operations.
Steadley said the Severna Park homeowner is "a dear, personal friend" of Holt, but that she would provide the same help to any needy constituent.
"We checked with whoever it is that approves these things and they told us it was okay to do this in a "Dear Colleague" letter," Steadley said. t
Rep. Richard L. Ottinger (D-N.Y.) provided a different twist to the "Dear Colleague" approach in a mass mailing to fellow legislators last month.
Using his own stationery and his own stamps, Ottinger informed members of the House that his former wife had opened a psychotherapy and counseling office on Capitol Hill.
"Her services have been qualified for high-option government health insurance," Ottinger wrote. "She is a very caring, sensible and able person."
Then, the pitch. "I would appreciate it if you would let your staff and friends know of her availability should any of them be interested in counseling services," he wrote.