More Republicans Charging Constituents For Town Hall Attendance

Yesterday I wrote about Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan holding only “pay-per-view” town halls during the August recess where constituents must pay a fee to attend the event and possibly ask a question.

Now there are more Republicans we can add to the list who are pulling this stunt:

Two more members of Congress are refusing to hold free, open town hall meetings for constituents during the August recess and instead appearing only at paid events, POLITICO has learned.

Neither Reps. Lou Barletta (R-Penn.) nor Renee Ellmers (R-N.C.) held or have scheduled town halls, but Barletta appeared last week at a $30-per-plate “CEO to CEO” forum and Ellmers is scheduled to speak at a federal employees’ forum that is charging a $13 admission fee.

Barletta and Ellmers join Reps. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.), who POLITICO reported Tuesday are all appearing at pay-per-view functions while eschewing town hall meetings open to all.

Another tactic for avoiding crowds of angry voters is being employed by members like Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), who held two town hall events – but in far-flung, relatively unpopulated parts of his northeastern Minnesota district, while doing only paid events in Duluth, the district’s population and media hub.

I have no problem with members of Congress fundraising. If they want to hold events and charge admission in order to raise money, more power to them. But the expectation from the electorate should be that they also hold open town hall events that are free for all to attend and held at times and locations that maximize attendance.

I’m happy to say that my Congressman, Rep. Rick Berg, has done just that in North Dakota scheduling half a dozen town hall events in the state’s largest cities. Unfortunately, he’s been the target of some Democrat political operatives whose antics and grandstanding invariably make the headlines, but such is the price of openness and transparency.

If you’re afraid of criticism, you ought not be holding office.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com. In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters. He writes a weekly column for several North Dakota newspapers, and also serves as a policy fellow for the North Dakota Policy Council.

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