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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Rep. Paul Ryan Hides Behind a Paywall

What is that I smell; is it fear or blood in the water?


RyanIt 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.


That's right, Paul Ryan is hiding behind a paywall -- along with Reps. Ben Quayle of Arizona and Chip Cravaack of Minnesota. Basically, the idea is this; the events are fundraisers, so it costs you a ticket price to get in. Obviously, the hope is that this will be a disincentive to critics, since they have to throw money in the Reps campaign war chests to voice their concerns.

"And what about those voters who don't want to pony up just to talk to their member of Congress or can't afford a ticket? They’re out of luck," explains Steve Benen. "Try sending a letter that will be read by an office assistant who will gladly send you a nice form letter in response."

When Democrats began cancelling their town halls in 2009, because of disruptive protesters from the nascent Tea Party -- then known only as "town hall mobs" -- then-Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele accused Democrats of "hiding from the American people." So we should expect that Ryan, Quayle, and Cravaack will receive criticism just as sharp from GOP leadership, right?


Ok, probably not. Republicans do not adore the hobgoblin of a foolish consistency. In fact, a Ryan spokesperson has washed his boss's hands of the whole thing. It's not his fault. Nothing he can do. According to the report, the spokesperson said Ryan had absolutely nothing to do with "the Whitnall Park Rotary Club's decision to charge $15 for admission-- a fee that will pay for the catered lunch of meat and potatoes the group will provide."

Nothing, that is, except not really scheduling any other public events. HAnd, given the way the market tanked after Ryan and company's default-denialism, he probably owes his constituents a free ham sandwich at least. Or at least an explanation.

But they'll have a tough time getting it. Ryan says he'll still be taking "business tours" -- presumably of friendly businesses for photo ops. He'll also still be having office hours, where I'm absolutely sure he'll be happy to meet with an angry unemployed autoworker in between corporate lobbyists. And, as Benen pointed out, you can always write and get a canned response that almost certainly won't answer your questions or concerns. What's important isn't that Rep. Paul Ryan face his constituents and explain his actions, what's important is that there aren't any YouTube videos of angry voters telling Ryan exactly what they think. There's reelection next November to think about, after all.


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