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The Gift of Coal

For $7.99, send your favorite congressman the gift that keeps giving.



With Christmas fast approaching, that perennial holiday question dances once again like sugarplums through frustrated voters' minds: What to get for that hard-to-shop-for senator or congressman?

Brookstone works if you're going with the run-of-the-mill Swedish foam pillow with built-in filibuster-proof neck massager. But why give what's bound to end up regifted to some lobbyist or congressional intern?

Ron Melancon of Glen Allen, a frequent and vocal advocate for a variety of political causes, has stepped up with a unique and heartfelt idea. What better this year for the politician on your list than a lump of coal?

For $7.99 and three optional donation amounts to the Alden Aaroe Shoe Fund holiday drive, Melancon will pack two to three ounces of America's favorite energy source in a plastic baggy and ship it with a choice of two finger-wagging form letters admonishing your congressman or congresswoman.

“I actually mail it for you and I e-mail you a tracking number so you, at home, can actually track the package to Washington and can receive the satisfaction of knowing the letter arrives,” Melancon says. He launched his idea — and the accompanying Web site — through a partnership with morning talk-radio host Jimmy Barrett of 1140 WRVA-AM.

Melancon got the idea to launch a congressional coal Web site two years ago, but netted no sales. He renewed the idea two weeks ago when Barrett made an off-hand comment about giving Congress a lump of coal for Christmas, immediately calling the outspoken right-wing radio host to pitch the idea.

The idea may come from the right, but Melancon says it's a gift appropriate for any member of Congress; the choice of accompanying letters can be customized to wag liberally or conservatively.

Since launching the site Nov. 11, Melancon has put nine packages in the mail. The first batch began arriving Nov. 15, though none has found its way into the hands of a congressman. According to the U.S. Postal Service's online tracking information, legislators have yet to sign for the packages.

Melancon says he's confident that each congressman on the naughty list will eventually have to take his or her lumps, because each package is sent certified mail: “They cannot refuse it and it cannot be sent back without them paying for it,” he says.

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