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

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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