Politico Nails Earl Pomeroy For Phony Teleconference “Town Hall”
A couple of weeks ago Politico’s Erika Lovely interviewed me for a story she was doing about the teleconference “town halls” Democrats across the nation were staging in lieu of actually meeting with their constituents face to face. Today the article has been published.
The telephone town hall, a forum that members of Congress insist offers them an opportunity to reach out to more constituents than through traditional town halls, is coming under increasing scrutiny from critics who insist that the events are largely rigged and designed to shield skittish lawmakers from facing hostile questioning.
While the tele-town hall isn’t exactly a new communications tool, it’s hard not to notice the sudden proliferation of these events at a time when members have struggled to control raucous crowds and deal with the presence of unfriendly, camera-wielding attendees who are eager to post unflattering videos on the Internet.
Lawmakers insist the tele-town halls enable them to reach out to far more constituents at any one time than an in-person event would. Conservative activists, however, contend that elected officials don’t want to face the music and prefer a more controlled environment where they can cherry-pick questions and dodge the opposition.
In North Carolina, FreedomWorks organizer Joyce Krawiec said that members of her group who called in to some House members’ conference calls reported back that they were unable to ask a question.
In North Dakota, conservative local radio host and blogger Rob Port described a similar experience when he phoned in to Democratic Rep. Earl Pomeroy’s conference call, despite calling in early to get in line to ask a question. The operator, he said, asked whether he supported or opposed President Barack Obama’s health care plan. When Port said he was undecided — an attempt to ensure that he got to ask a question — he was put on hold for what seemed to him to be an interminable period.
After the first round of questions included a local Service Employees International Union representative, followed by another pro-Obama group’s representative, Port eventually hung up.
That last bit is a little bit inaccurate. I hung up after 14 questions, but not because I wanted to. I was scheduled to do a radio show that evening and had to leave the call to go on the air. I actually spoke at length about the teleconference on the show and played some of the audio from it.
But the rest of the article is entirely accurate, including two of Pomeroy’s first questions coming from paid liberal operatives. Specifically, Ryan Nagle from the SEIU and Don Morrison from local liberal group NDPeople.
There was no effort on the part of Pomeroy’s people to alert other listeners on the call to the fact that the questions they were listening to, and Pomeroy was answering, were coming from paid operatives. Which might have been something they’d want to do in light of all the nonsense about “operatives” and “extremists” Pomeroy’s party hurled at the town hall/tea party protesters.
Regardless, it’s nice to see Pomeroy getting some flak for not meeting with his constituents face to face during the August recess. Dorgan did it. Conrad did it (though his events were carefully controlled and choreographed). So why couldn’t Pomeroy?
It shows just how much respect Pomeroy has for his constituents and their opinions. Which is, to put it frankly, not much respect at all.