Pay to Say: Paul Ryan Charges His Constituents to Talk to Him

Submitted by Elaine Magliaro, Guest Blogger

During the recent Congressional recess, House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) decided that he wasn’t going to hold any public face-to-face town meetings with the constituents in his district. Instead, according to Politico, he opted for town hall-style meetings that were strictly “pay-per-view.” And Ryan wasn’t the only member of Congress who chose to charge people for the privilege of speaking to them.

In a Politico article, Reid Epstein wrote:

By outsourcing the events to third parties that charge an entry fee to raise money, members of Congress can eliminate most of the riffraff while still — in some cases — allowing reporters and TV cameras for a positive local news story.

Evidently, Ryan didn’t want to be confronted at public forums with any protesters or with angry backlash or questions from voters upset with his positions on issues like taxes, Medicare, and Social Security—as he was last spring.

Yet, Ryan still faced angry Wisconsinites at a “pay-per-view” luncheon at a Rotary Club. One 71-year-old retired plumber was actually pushed to the ground and handcuffed by police at the event. Watch the videos:

It seems the natives have been getting restless in the Badger state. It’s hard to keep them quiet when the economy is in such trouble, so many people are unemployed, and some members of Congress insist on giving tax breaks to the wealthy and to corporations while the average American sees the quality of his/her middle-class life being eroded.

In a Mother Jones article dated August 26, 2011, Andy Kroll wrote:

Over the past week, hundreds of people, a mix of constituents and other angry Wisconsinites, have marched outside Ryan’s Kenosha and Racine offices, angry over what they see as Ryan’s inaccessibility and refusal to face his constituents in a free, public, in-person town hall. For four days, they also held sit-ins inside Ryan’s Kenosha office—until police kicked them out. The only in-person event on Ryan’s recess calendar is an appearance at a Rotary hall outside his district with a $15 entrance fee; by contrast, Ryan held more than a dozen town halls in 2009. “This is a jobs crisis in his congressional district, an emergency,” says Scott Page, 37, an unemployed Kenosha resident. “Yet he’s not even listening to his own constituents.”

David Dayen (FireDogLake) wrote that the major media didn’t appear to be perturbed by this “indictment of our system.” He wrote:

The elites are by now used to walling themselves off in Davos or Aspen, unable to hear the concerns of the people whose lives they hold in their hands. They get very embarrassed when they are confronted by the rabble. So much so that they get the authorities to push the rabble around and make sure they don’t step out of line again. This looks a lot like hiring Pinkerton thugs to break up union protesters in the 19th century to me.

Is this what life in a representative democracy should look like? Shouldn’t our representatives and senators hold town hall meetings where their constituents can speak to them in a public forum?  Shouldn’t the politicians we send to Washington, D.C., be listening to the concerns and answering the questions of all of the people whom they represent? Isn’t that their job?

Paul Ryan Mocks Senior Citizen Handcuffed At His Town Hall: ‘I Hope He’s Taking His Blood Pressure Medication’ (Think Progress)

Unemployed Constituents Stage Sit-In At Paul Ryan’s Office, Ryan’s Staff Calls The Cops (Think Progress)

Talk to Paul Ryan? It’ll cost you (Politico)

Republican Lawmakers Face Angry, Confused Constituents on Medicare, Budget Cuts (ABC News)

Afraid To Face Angry Voters, Rep. Paul Ryan Sneaks Out A Back Door After Raucous Town Hall (Crooks and Liars)

Paul Ryan Dodges Angry Cheeseheads (Mother Jones)

The New Gilded Age: Protesters Roughed Up at Paul Ryan Pay-Per-View Town Hall (FireDogLake)

39 thoughts on “Pay to Say: Paul Ryan Charges His Constituents to Talk to Him”

  1. NoWay,

    From No Labels
    Congress Not Holding Town Halls

    “No Labels activists spoke to all 430 current members of the House of Representatives to find that only 192* of them scheduled meetings. The results of the phone survey also reveal that members of both parties share the blame, with about 59%* of Democrats and 50% of Republicans stating they had no town hall meetings scheduled for the recess period.”

  2. Paul Ryan called to account at “pay-per-view” town hall event
    Posted on September 8, 2011 by Eric

    “As we previously noted here on the blog, Rep. Paul Ryan is part of a rather large contingent of Congress who refused to hold public meetings in his district during the August recess, preferring instead to appear at events that charge money for attendance and having constituents arrested who persisted in meeting with him at a district office.”

  3. NoWay:

    so you are saying that republicans are holding townhall meetings at a rate of almost 2 times that of democrats.

    Leave it to democrats to distort facts and figures for partisan political reasons. We republicans are above that type of thing. 🙂

  4. “Republicans counter that they are holding way more town halls than Democrats. A new phone survey of every House member proved their claim correct. No Labels a bipartisan citizen activist group, said that 67.9% of Democrats and 50.8% of Republicans weren’t planning town hall meetings during the August recess, maybe a sign that lawmakers needed a break from Washington’s partisan fights.”

  5. @Elaine

    Don’t get me wrong. I expected you to right from a leftist perspective. I don’t have a problem with that.

    I wish I could provide video of Democrats doing the same thing. I can’t. I can’t find any video of a Democrat holding a Townhall style meeting either.

    As Swarthmore mom points out, maybe the lack of open access is due to safety concerns. However, I think there are better ways to address safety concerns than to limit access to those having the ability to pay.

  6. Only republican reps charged for town halls. Gabbie Giffords made her self very available to constituents and Sarah Palin put a bullseye on her.

  7. Andy1, September 10, 2011 at 12:01 pm

    I’m shocked, shocked! Does anyone (capable of rational thought) believe that the masters will not keep pushing the envelope of power/wealth until someone stands up and says enough, or better yet, too much? A leader is needed and unfortunately I cannot see one.
    Andy, there is a difference between Masters and Thugs. Oh yeah….and Whores……

  8. NoWay,

    You are most welcome to post any videos in a comment that shows liberal/Democratic politicians doing the same thing as Ryan. I wrote this post because I had read a number of articles about Ryan and some other members of Congress who were doing these “pay-per-view” events. I wrote what I had information about.

    “I think our representatives need to make themselves accessable. They need to do so at events that do not cost money to attend.”

    I agree. That holds true for both Republicans and Democrats.

  9. Where are the videos of the Townhall Meetings held by those on the left?

    I’m serious. I looked for some recent videos, but was unable to find any. I am hearing stories of Kitchen Table meetings, where no audio or video is permitted, that include claims that the Representative or Senator failed to show up, and their representatives would not answer questions.

    I know this is a left-leaning blog. However, if you’re going to point out how bad the other side is (because they are or are not doing something you consider to be vital), shouldn’t that be accompanied by evidence that those you support aren’t doing effectively the same thing?

    I think our representatives need to make themselves accessable. They need to do so at events that do not cost money to attend.

    The Framers knew the importance of our representatives knowing their constituents, and the constituents knowing their representatives. They even knew that a representative having too many constituents would cause problems; both in representation and the ability of the electors to know their representatives.

    During the period that the current U.S. Constitution has been in effect, the number of citizens per congressional district has risen from an average of 33,000 in 1790 to almost 700,000 as of 2008. The Senators, originally representatives of the State’s interest are now just a mere additional two Representatives sitting in a different house. The purpose of the Senate, as designed by the Framers, no longer exists.

    I suggest that the Seventeenth Amendment be repealed. The U.S. Senators should be meeting with the State Legislatures, not the voters. Increase the number of Representatives so that they get to know their constituents, and their constituents get to know them. If needed, have select members of those Representatives (voted by their peers) be the ones who go to D.C.

  10. I’m shocked, shocked! Does anyone (capable of rational thought) believe that the masters will not keep pushing the envelope of power/wealth until someone stands up and says enough, or better yet, too much? A leader is needed and unfortunately I cannot see one.

  11. puzzling, Ryan is using the money to keep the people in his district out of the meeting who want government services and generally don’t support him. Obama is conducting a fundraiser. I am for public financing so this type of fundraising would not have to be conducted. Do libertarians support public financing?

  12. puzzling – nice try.
    1st – Ryan is a bastard because of his documented plans to destroy the American middle class – not because of his party or his money grubbing.
    2nd – did I blame this only on Ryan or your beloved Republicans? No. Money has destroyed the power of people in politics & there are plenty of whores in both parties

    man: Would you go to bed with me for a million dollars?
    woman: Ah, I suppose
    man: How about for 10 bucks?
    woman: What kind of girl do you think I am?
    man: I think we have established that, now we are haggling price.

  13. why not? these bastards are mostly well paid whores, here is one honest enough to post his rates. The unmentioned thing is these cheap prices are just to be allowed to speak in his presence. If you want him to actually listen you are going to have to add some zeros to that check; to get him to actually DO something is going to take even more – ‘bundler’ levels or PAC levels. Ryan may be a whore but he is not a cheap one.

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