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He's after government "evil doers'

Bob Traugott is at it again.

When we last heard from Bob, the Sugarmill Woods sage was engaged in one of his favorite pastimes, giving out-of-touch politicians a wake-up kick in the pants.

Specifically, he sought to remind the Washington elite that many of their constituents lacked what the elected do-nothings enjoy at public expense: full, health care coverage.

His demand that they fulfill their moral imperative by giving up their taxpayer-paid insurance until the least of their countrymen is covered went unheeded.

No surprise there, but also no setback for Traugott, either. He accomplished a bit of his goal: He got the fatcats to squirm.

Now, like Superman taking on Lex Luthor, Traugott has rejoined a fight with a longtime nemesis: cable television operators.

Traugott lives in an area served by CableVision of Central Florida, a group that he claims some responsibility for attracting to Citrus several years ago to supplant another company that was performing poorly.

Today, he's just one of many subscribers who are uneasy about the pending sale of Telesat to CableVision.

That's bad news for CableVision because, unlike most of its customers, Traugott doesn't know how to suffer in silence.

He does know how to get the attention of bureaucrats and elected officials, and he's bringing these skills to bear once more in his quest for quality service.

In January, Traugott wrote to Sens. Bob Graham and Connie Mack and U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman explaining why he feels a cable monopoly in Citrus County would be a disaster and asking for their help in heading it off.

Thurman responded with a letter saying that cable problems don't fall under her jurisdiction as a congresswoman.

Graham's office sent back the sort of kiss-off letter that probably mollifies most voters. It said Traugott's inquiry had been forwarded to the Florida Trade Commission and that as soon as Graham heard from it, he would be in touch. He concluded by saying he appreciated "the opportunity to serve as your U.S. Senator."

Sounds impressive until you realize there is no such thing as a Florida Trade Commission. It's anyone's guess where Traugott's letter landed, but the circular file would be my first choice.

Mack never did respond, but that's probably just as well. Traugott recalls sending Mack a letter on health care issues and getting back a note thanking him for supporting religious programming on television.

Don't these people know that shoveling this kind of manure at a guy like Traugott is like waving a red cape before a bull?

Traugott countered with the big guns in his arsenal. First, he got the people in the loosely knit Committee of 1001 together to circulate petitions.

Accompanying the petitions was the letter Traugott sent to the politicians briefly stating the history of the pending sale of Telesat to CableVision and the reasons the committee feels the sale should not go through. The petition notes that the recipient has "chosen to ignore this appeal and we the undersigned want to know why!"

The committee members had no problem collecting hundreds of signatures. "You can stop almost anybody on the street and say, "How would you like to sign something against cable TV?' and they'll gladly sign it," he laughed.

Soon, the petitions were flowing into the mailrooms of Graham, Mack and Thurman.

Traugott wasn't through. Next, he contacted some of the politicians with whom he has favorably dealt over the years (See? It is possible to find a conscientious officeholder from time to time). Since the Big Three won't pay much heed to a mere voter, could the out-of-state representatives call their Washington colleagues on behalf of little ol' Citrus County?

Within days, people like U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs, Sen. Howard Metzenbaum and former Sen. Vance Hartke were talking about Citrus County's cable problems.

Can you imagine the surprise among Graham, Mack and Thurman when those calls began coming in?

Surely it was a coincidence that Traugott began getting his calls returned by aides who couldn't be nicer. Inquiries to the FTC (the real one, not the bogus Florida Trade Commission) are being made. Potential cable suppliers are expressing cautious off-the-record interest in the Citrus market if the CableVision deal falls through.

Officially, nothing has changed. The pending deal lingers like a bad chest cold. Traugott is optimistic that Telesat subscribers are starting to realize that if the sale goes through, they'll be at a monopoly's mercy.

And he continues to do what he does best, deflating those whose heads get too big for congressional door frames while heeding the advice he so cheerfully dispenses: "Keep after the evil doers!"