Another congressional recess week is upon us and once again Rep. Erik Paulsen has no town hall on the schedule. In fact, he hasn’t held one since September 2011. However, he and his office staff insist he has had many of them.
The record clearly shows this isn’t true. The last town hall Erik Paulsen held was Sept. 6, 2011. Yet Paulsen claims to have held hundreds of town hall events. Where does he get these numbers from? It seems that normal interactions with constituents — so-called Congress on your corner (unannounced short stops at grocery stores), private meetings with constituents, and unannounced random phone calls — are repackaged by Paulsen’s office and called town hall events. Interviewers are unaware of Paulen’s “alternative facts,” and so do not have a follow-up question to define these “hundreds” of meetings.
The definition of a town hall is “an event at which a politician or public official answers questions from members of the public.” And that is what is missing from Paulsen’s outreach efforts: public questions. Public questioning allows for on-the-record accountability. When all of his public interactions are prescreened and carefully constructed, Paulsen is able to hide and spin his voting record.
Our extraordinary current events call for more discussion and engagement with our political leaders. If Rep. Paulsen will not speak on the record in an open forum with questions from constituents, he and his office should please stop using the term “town hall events” to describe his district visits.
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