Republican House Members Charging Constituents To Attend Town Halls

This is so wrong:

It will cost $15 to ask Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) a question in person during the August congressional recess.

The House Budget Committee chairman isn’t holding any face-to-face open-to-the-public town hall meetings during the recess, but like several of his colleagues he will speak only for residents willing to open their wallets.

Ryan, who took substantial criticism from his southeast Wisconsin constituents in April after he introduced the Republicans’ budget proposal, isn’t the only member of congress whose August recess town hall-style meetings are strictly pay-per-view.

Rep. Ben Quayle (R-Ariz.) is scheduled to appear Aug. 23 at a luncheon gathering of the Arizona Republican Lawyers Association. For $35, attendees can question Quayle and enjoy a catered lunch at the Phoenix office of the Snell & Wilmer law firm.

And Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.) took heat in Duluth this weekend for holding private events in his district’s population and media center — including a $10-per-head meeting hosted next week by the local chapter of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which on its invitation notes that the organization “supported Chip in his stunning upset over long time Congressman Jim Oberstar in the 2010 election.”

I understand that these town halls can be frustrating for the elected officials. They’re frequently targeted by political operatives for grandstanding, and since even your run-of-the-mill town hall is likely to have a constituent or two who isn’t happy with your job the resulting media coverage will always focus on the criticism and not any praise or agreement.

That being said, opening yourself up to constituents (even the ones who don’t like you that much) goes with the territory. It’s part of being an elected official. The tea party movement reshaped what the town hall meant in American politics, now these politicians are trying to drift away from that new trend.

That’s wrong, and their sin is compounded by the arrogance of expecting constituents to pay for access.

There’s nothing defensible in that.

Rob Port is the editor of 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.

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  • Neiman

    I am sorry my man Congressman Ryan is among them it is wrong, it is very wrong, it undermines the idea that the voters in any district or state should have open access to their elected officials, even those that did not vote for them and even those that will be disruptive. If they are not willing to face voters that cannot pay for access, I wonder what the prices they charge for one on one access.

  • Brent

    Well, “historic” “landslide” elections mean a whopping 14% of House members lose their seats and 6% of Senators lose theirs.  This is the result you should expect.

  • borborygmi

    capitalism at its finest.

  • Julie

    Your headline is misleading.  Paul Ryan is not charging people to attend the townhall, the rotary club is charging the $15 for a catered lunch that guests can purchase.  Sloppy blogging…

    • LastBestHope

      Thanks Julie

    • Neiman

      If that is true, it still amounts to the same thing; namely, that people must pay to talk to Ryan, it is paying for access. Politicians should avoid even the appearance if evil and turned down a pay for play event.

      • borborygmi

        Don’t promote it as a town hall.  Promote it as a fundraiser. 

    • Janeth4247

      Can a constituent attend without buying the lunch? At least Ryan shows up. Eric Cantor is a ghost in our district. If you ask his office about his appearances, they politely inform you that you are welcome to make an appointment, but, oh my, the waiting list is months long…..These guys have to go! Lets all donate to Rob Zerban in Wisconsin and E. Wayne Powell in Virginia and bring government representation back to the people.

    • Rob

      If it’s a fundraiser and not a town hall then don’t promote it as a town hall. And shame on Ryan for not scheduling some events where constituents can come free of charge and ask questions.

  • baruchzed

    It should be illegal for politicians to charge constituents for access, but they have certainly been granting access to corporations and the like for huge sums for a long time so…this isn’t really anything new, it’s just corrupt.

  • Julie

    Neiman, I can see your point, but my problem was with the headline.  I respect this site for it’s accuracy so I was just pointing out what I thought was a misleading headline.  DailyKos, Politico and Firedog Lake are all reporting about this.  Geez… this is gonna be a tough enough fight folks.

  • 2hotel9

    This is so wrong? Really? Democrats have charged attendees 100s of dollars simply to get in the door of their events for DECADES, and everyone said it was fine. Now Republicans charge $15 a head to enter an event and it is bad. Really?  REALLY, Marge??????

  • 2hotel9

    I mean come the f*ck on!!! Barack Hussein Obama charges $15,000 a plate at fund raisers and you have a problem with a %15 cover charge to enter the building?  What the f*ck, over!?!?!?!?!

    • Lillie

      Yes, but its called fund-raising – not town hall meetings.  Get real.

      • borborygmi

        asking for the impossible from 2/9

        • 2hotel9

          Yes, the impossible, all the while you continue to hold Republicans to an ephemeral, ever changing set of standards and Democrats to no standard at all. Barack Hussien Obama just had a 3 day re-election campaign event and it was totally paid for with tax payer’s money. And you complain about people paying $15 cover charge to enter an event. What whinny lying c*cksuckers you both are.

          • borborygmi

            nice change up.  I didn’t see that coming, ” whinny lying c*cksuckers”   instead of “whiney lying c*nt.   Your mother finally speak to you….  I didn’t know “lying c*cksuckers”  could whinny. 

          • 2hotel9

            And yet you are still a whinny lying c*nt with a Democrat c*ck in your mouth.

  • Lillie

    Everyone who thinks that there is nothing wrong with paying to attend the events can open your wallets and attend. The President held a just town hall meeting in my State a few weeks ago.  No one was asked to pay.  Then again, it was not a fund-raising event. There is nothing wrong with fund-raising but call it with it is.

  • borborygmi

    The beauty of  calling a fund raiser a town hall meeting is that the Conservative press can then report 
    how Congressman Ryan held a ‘town hall meeting’  and 99% agreed with him thus portraying that he has majority support.  Tricky, very tricky.

  • Augieb

    I have attended two events and have yet to hear one word from 
     my governor as he is repeatedly drowned out by protestors. I would gladly pay to hear him, not them.

  • Willis Forster

    Townhall meetings used to be pleasant social affairs until this administration got control of both the executive and the legislative branches and forced obamacare through and other crap and used a filthy term invented by sexual perverts to smear those who objected. Now it may be necessary to schedule separate town halls for each party. The violent people can be thus segragated. The union thugs can intimidate each other.