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The appearance of access

Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017 - Posted by Rich Miller

* Columbia Journalism Review

After ducking his constituents and protesters this month—by leaving a closed meeting through the back door, in one instance—Illinois Rep. Peter Roskam, a Republican who represents the west Chicago suburbs, hosted 18,000 people for a teleconference call last week through his campaign website.

The day after Roskam’s telephone town hall, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner fielded questions about his budget through Facebook Live, a platform the Republican has embraced in order to interact with constituents about statewide issues. The video attracted 16,000 views.

The technology enabled both officials to claim rightfully that they were talking with constituents, and large numbers of them at that. But, in the more controlled virtual space, they also were able to avoid potential confrontation with voters and questions from the press. (Roskam’s staff cancelled a scheduled meeting with constituents earlier this month when a reporter came with them.)

“The urge to control access is getting worse,” says Thomas Suddes, assistant professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University. He says social media provides a false sense of access to elected officials. “It used to be that if a person were ducking reporters it was easy to say they were,” he says. Now, social media makes “the appearance of access for the public as significant as genuine access.”

Yep, and it’s a real problem.

* Roskam also caught heat for the way he set up his teleconference

Congressman Peter Roskam is making changes for future telephone town halls after repeated questions from NBC 5 of how his Tele-Town Halls have been conducted.

In the past, those interested in participating had to register on Roskam’s campaign website and agree to receive campaign emails, texts and other literature.

NBC 5 questioned if Roskam was using the information to later solicit donations and campaign mailers. A week after those initial questions were raised, David Pasch, Roskam’s spokesman says “the following language was added to the Tele-Town Hall sign up page:

“The information provided will only be used for Roskam for Congress telephone town halls. It will not be shared with other organizations or used for fundraising purposes.”

* Roskam was also blasted by the Courier-News Editorial Board

The Wheaton Republican told radio hosts Monday that “the country’s safer this morning than it was 72 hours ago.” Yes, safer for those who fear all those treacherous non-Christians who would come here from those menacing Middle East countries that don’t do business with the president. What is more appalling than the naivete in Roskam’s support is the spineless way in which it was delivered. Roskam declined to respond to the Naperville Sun’s multiple requests for an interview on the issue. He did not explain himself in a public forum before his constituents. No, he made his statement under the friendly cover of conservative talk radio — in an appearance on WIND-AM 560. On Thursday, days after his colleagues had weighed in, he issued a news release that simply reiterated what he said on the radio.

This evasiveness is not all that surprising. Roskam’s staff members also fled from a meeting with a group of constituents last week after finding out a newspaper reporter was with the group. We will cut Roskam’s people some slack for feeling blindsided by this after agreeing to a private meeting with constituents to discuss repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But even after the group told the staffers the reporter did not have to be in the meeting, they refused to call off their retreat.

* Meanwhile, several dozen protesters gathered outside Rep. Mike Bost’s Belleville office yesterday

There were members of the crowd that did get to spend some time with the congressman in a small group setting, Russell said.

“There are a lot of people who have health care stories where they are scared for their lives, where they are afraid that they’re going to lose their coverage, not going to be able to take care of their chronic illnesses,” Russell said. “So our message is, ‘Listen to those people. You need to listen to them.’”

Russell said he tried last month to organize a meeting with about 15 people with Bost. The meeting was canceled, Russell said.

“We just want an opportunity to talk to our congressman,” Russell said.

* And an area TV station tried and failed to get some straight answers from Bost

Upon questioning in an email conversation with KFVS-TV, Rep. Bost did not definitively comment on whether or not he would vote yes or no on a repeal/overhaul of the ACA.

The congressman also would not comment on the fate of any Illinois residents who may lose insurance as a result of a repeal.

Although Rep. Bost did not specifically agree to host a town hall meeting as requested by protesters, he did express support for their expression

“I understand that there are heartfelt disagreements on both sides of this issue and welcome and encourage this conversation. Whether you’re Republican, Democrat or Independent, everyone’s input is valid and helps shape our agenda in Congress.”

* Related…

* Republicans who won after rowdy town halls now avoiding them

* Protesters gather outside Bost’s office in support of ACA

       

54 Comments
  1. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:10 pm:

    Yep, Bost hosted one of those crock ‘tele-town’ halls. I asked to be notified of his next town hall over a month ago. They did not notify me when they did the tele-town hall, opting instead to call some subset of landlines.

    With the town hall, if they dodge a question, the audience can let them know. If they dodge a question on the tele-town hall, all the lines are muted so you have to depend on the next person in line to double down on your question.

    An added color to the cancelled meeting of 15 people. It was originally scheduled for yesterday afternoon, but was cancelled due to personal reasons. But the meeting he DID hold with 4 women was at the same time. lol, oops.

    I counted 75 people there downtown Belleville yesterday


  2. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:12 pm:

    Rodney Davis is playing the same games, btw. He’s holding some sort of event later this week where he’s only sending staffers, and he’s already had a couple of these sham tele-town halls


  3. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:13 pm:

    What’s the problem? Trump says ACA is going to be replaced with “insurance for everybody” that has lower deductibles and lower premiums.

    Just sell that, Roskam. Throw in a couple of unicorns and ponies while you’re at it.


  4. - Formerpol - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:14 pm:

    The problem, of course, is that too many of these attendees just want to rant and scream and protest, and have little interest in any real discussion of issues. At some point it becomes unsafe for the officeholder and other attendees. Having internet chats is a good idea until all these crazies calm down.


  5. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:15 pm:

    ===too many of these attendees just want to rant and scream and protest===

    Were you saying that in 2009 and 2010?


  6. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:19 pm:

    ==Having internet chats is a good idea until all these crazies calm down.==

    Maybe it would be more convenient to meet AFTER their health insurance is taken from them?


  7. - jw - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:21 pm:

    where is term limits

    where is term limits Shimkus at?


  8. - Formerpol - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:23 pm:

    Yes, I was. After Gabby Giffords was shot at such a ‘constituent’ gathering, and after the Tea Partiers stalked officeholders and shoved cameras in their faces, yelling out loaded questions, I helped several State Reps and candidates reschedule their Town Hall meetings to the internet or call-ins.


  9. - swIFT taylor - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:23 pm:

    ==Just sell that, Roskam. Throw in a couple of unicorns and ponies while you’re at it.==

    Lest ye forget: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4s_NL3brvoQ

    ‘Blame it on the stupidity of the American voter or whatever’.


  10. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:24 pm:

    ==where is term limits Shimkus at?==

    Ah, Shimkus will only schedule one-on-ones. Good luck


  11. - Telly - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:24 pm:

    Hillary won Roskam’s district by 7 points, so I guess there’s some justification for him to be a little worried. But he’s making matters worse. Just have a town hall and get it over with.

    BTW, I check Scott Kennedy’s website for the ‘16 election totals…didn’t realize Hillary won Jeanne Ives’ district by 10 points! Hillary also won the Connelly, Nybo, and Rooney state senate districts by similar margins. A different electorate usually shows up in midterms, but still, more than a few Republican GA members have to be concerned about an anti-Trump wave in ‘18.

    http://illinoiselectiondata.com/?p=1430


  12. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:24 pm:

    ===After Gabby Giffords was shot===

    Not to nitpick, but that was 2011.


  13. - Dance Band on the Titanic - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:25 pm:

    Funny GOP calculation
    Town hall + tea party attendees = good thing
    Town hall + progressive attendees = bad thing


  14. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:25 pm:

    –The problem, of course, is that too many of these attendees just want to rant and scream and protest, and have little interest in any real discussion of issues.–

    Why are you hating on those Tea Party Patriots?

    –At some point it becomes unsafe for the officeholder and other attendees.–

    No way. For example, the guy pictured here in the link is just a responsible, law-abiding citizen exercising his rights.

    http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/08/17/obama.protest.rifle/


  15. - Formerpol - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:28 pm:

    There are already enough disincentives for good people to run for office. Adding physical danger and subjecting them to screaming matches is not helpful!


  16. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:28 pm:

    –After Gabby Giffords was shot at such a ‘constituent’ gathering, –

    How dare you. Gifford was shot by a flat-out legal-gun-toting nut, not someone wishing to question their rep. about health insurance.


  17. - From the google - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:36 pm:

    Try again Word, Google and Wikipedia disagree with you.


  18. - paddyrollingstone - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:39 pm:

    The GOP reps and their supporters reminds me of the amazing “Incubator” episode on M*A*S*H:

    Gen. Mitchell: Now just a minute! This is a press conference! The last thing I want to do is answer a lot of questions!


  19. - A guy - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:39 pm:

    There should be a way to peel this onion. I don’t blame anyone for not wanting to walk into a scream fest where no meaningful exchange takes place, like the video of the Chaffetz town hall meeting in Utah that was shown.

    I do think some sort of smart town hall with an equal distribution of tickets for attendance might be a solution. A congressman has an obligation to meet with people, but I don’t think it extends to mandatory meetings with pop up flash mobs just screaming.

    There’s got to be a process to allow adequate security, exchange of ideas and comments and reasonable order.


  20. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:41 pm:

    –Try again Word, Google and Wikipedia disagree with you.–

    Really, Judge Judy?

    What are the criminal penalties for unlawful presence? Is it a felony or misdemeanor?


  21. - A guy - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:43 pm:

    ==How dare you. Gifford was shot by a flat-out legal-gun-toting nut==

    Sling, don’t disagree with your identification of the shooter. But this was at a very popular event called “Congressman on your Corner” which nearly all Congressmen participated in around the country. That horrifying event began the advent and expansion of Tele-town halls. Many family members and spouses were rightfully alarmed after that.


  22. - Anonymous - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:47 pm:

    Some legitimate concern about wackos, but you gain more by acting courageous than being wimpy and flaccid.


  23. - GraduatedCollegeStudent - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:48 pm:

    ===There are already enough disincentives for good people to run for office. Adding physical danger and subjecting them to screaming matches is not helpful!===

    “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” -Harry S. Truman, 33rd President of the United States.

    If the GOP Reps can’t take this, they should resign.


  24. - From the google - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:49 pm:

    Thanks, “a guy”. Word, I was noting that the shooting happened at such an event, thereby qualifying as a similar event to what “Formerpol” is referencing. No need to fly off the handle. Tensions are high right now and nutcases come in all party affiliations.


  25. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:50 pm:

    Guy, you let me know when Roskam has “security concerns” about walking into a room full of strangers at a fundraiser.


  26. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:54 pm:

    I helped Bobby Schilling do a town hall in 2011 after he was elected. Sure enough some guy stood up and commandeered the event because (sorry for the all caps) HE WANTED HIGH-SPEED RAIL FUNDING. Mr. Schilling acknowledged his opinion, said he disagreed and then attempted to move on. Too bad the “gentleman” decided to try and take over the meeting. He literally spent 10 minutes ranting-and-raving and actually shouted down other constituents who wanted to ask questions. Growing up I remember going to a town hall with Senators Simon and Moseley-Braun and the same thing happened. That helps no one and the time for all involved (except for those who want to make a spectacle) is a waste. I admire Justin Amash for holding town halls and taking the abuse but how much of that is for show and how much is legit?

    JPD - so request a meeting. Discuss things with Congressman Shimkus civilly at a table or conference room or village/city hall. No need to show up at an event and scream.


  27. - Henry Francis - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:54 pm:

    Speaking of accessibility, is it true that the Guv hasn’t been out talking about his budget address at all since he gave it? Instead letting poor Scott Harry take all the arrows?

    And today while he is out speaking at public events is refusing to answer any questions from the press?


  28. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:57 pm:

    ==I do think some sort of smart town hall with an equal distribution of tickets for attendance might be a solution. A congressman has an obligation to meet with people, but I don’t think it extends to mandatory meetings with pop up flash mobs just screaming.==

    Nobody is stopping the supporters of these people from showing up if balance is all you’re after. A lot of the raucous reactions are coming from blatant lies being told be the representatives hosting these things. And, not surprisingly, stripping health care from people who desperately need it is kinda an emotional thing that people have strong reactions to. But I know, they’re just whackos for not wanting to die


  29. - Rogue Roni - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 2:58 pm:

    Illinois GOP “yeah, but Madigan…”


  30. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:10 pm:

    ==so request a meeting. Discuss things with Congressman Shimkus civilly at a table or conference room or village/city hall. No need to show up at an event and scream.==

    I’m not a Shimkus constituent. Just relaying what his constituents are saying about their difficulty to get a meeting. It’s a lot harder to schedule individual meetings than to hear from many constituents at once. Which means many constituents are getting frozen out. Which of course is entirely the point.

    I have no interest in screaming. I do have an interest in seeing that our representatives are actually doing their jobs. They call it “district work period” presumably for SOME reason. If it isn’t meeting with constituents, what are they DOING?


  31. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:15 pm:

    Paul Simon went toe-to-toe with the Notch Babies and never once flinched or canceled. And those people were angry, mean and old as dirt. Google it.

    Nobody has any guts these days, nor the courage of their convictions. Rostenkowski ran over a few seniors after a town hall, but at least he took the questions first. Now Congressmen just want to run away from their constituents because they don’t have any answers.


  32. - lost in the weeds - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:21 pm:

    One of symptoms in the move to authoritarianism.

    Big Brother on the intercom and monitor coming soon(pick your medium of choice).


  33. - Scamp640 - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:21 pm:

    Thanks, Obama.


  34. - Doug - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:26 pm:

    OFA paid protests.


  35. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:32 pm:

    –Rostenkowski ran over a few seniors after a town hall, but at least he took the questions first.–

    Full-blown Danny Thomas spit-take on that one.

    I could have sworn Rosty rolled an elderly lady off the hood of his Caddy, but the google is no help in finding it.

    Was that just the way I wanted to remember it?


  36. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:34 pm:

    –OFA paid protests.–

    Of course.

    It’s ridiculous to think that anyone could get upset about a silly little thing like losing health insurance.

    You wouldn’t, right?


  37. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:39 pm:

    I’m pretty sure the little old lady climbed up on the hood of his car so he couldn’t drive off. His driver slowly pulled away and I think she escaped without injury.

    Congressmen today expect armed guards to protect them from their bosses. Security is unfortunately a new reality, but hiding behind it is as old as the hills. 99.9% of these people have nothing to fear from their constituents, except for being exposed as corporate shills and hypocrites.


  38. - Give Me A Break - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:39 pm:

    Can’t the GOP round up some of their Tea Party friends to attend and “protect” them from the big bad liberals at the meetings?

    I thought the Tea Party was rough and tough and going to change the world, where are they now? They need to come to the aid of those they put in office but that would mean facing people who probably don’t care what they have to say.


  39. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:41 pm:

    –Congressmen today expect armed guards to protect them from their bosses–

    Meh, the Roskam defense is a cowardly cop out. He’d run into a burning house if there were campaign contributions sitting on the table.


  40. - Saluki - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:45 pm:

    The A.C.A. is not flawless, and while some would like to frame this exclusively around the idea of people “losing health insurance” there are many who have experienced sky rocketing premiums and are hoping for a repeal and replace scenario to unfold.

    Furthermore, there are 711,000 people in a congressional district. So dozens of people picketing at two office locations does not mean that a congressman needs to leap to action.


  41. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:48 pm:

    JPD - okay but then that would be like me coming on here and ranting & raving about Cheri Bustos not having town halls. I just did a decent (i.e. more than a minute) search of her social media and Facebook photos. Guess what?! She does not do town halls either. Her events/visits all appear to be tightly-controlled and have a specific, targeted audience. So the outrage - though duly noted - needs to be shared on both sides of the aisle.

    I will say that I have told friends of mine who work for certain Congresscritters that their bosses need to hold meetings and just “get it over with” (so to speak).


  42. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:48 pm:

    ==Furthermore, there are 711,000 people in a congressional district. So dozens of people picketing at two office locations does not mean that a congressman needs to leap to action.==

    50,000 Bost Constituents rely on Medicaid or ACA subsidies and protections

    43,000 Rodney Davis Constituents rely on Medicaid or ACA subsidies and protections

    60,000 Roskam constituents rely on Medicaid or ACA subsidies and protections

    48,000 Shimkus constituents rely on Medicaid or ACA subsidies and protections


  43. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:49 pm:

    –So dozens of people picketing at two office locations does not mean that a congressman needs to leap to action.–

    Roskam leaped into action to vote to repeal Obamacare more than 60 times.

    He can put on his big boy pants and answer to his constituents.


  44. - JohnnyPyleDriver - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 3:51 pm:

    ==okay but then that would be like me coming on here and ranting & raving about Cheri Bustos not having town halls. I just did a decent (i.e. more than a minute) search of her social media and Facebook photos. Guess what?! She does not do town halls either.==

    But I am a Bost constituent, and I already addressed him. You were the one that focused on my Shimkus comment. I live in a place where all three of these districts touch, so it’s not like I”m just randomly commenting on random congress people. I’m not outraged by Cheri Bustos because, well, I’m not anywhere near Cheri Bustos district. If folks up there wanna hammer her for not hosting one, more power to them. I’d be willing to bet she isn’t facing much pressure to do that since she neither has any power in the House, nor is she going to vote to strip health insurance coverage from tens of thousands of her constituents. Soooo


  45. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 4:03 pm:

    Word - free bus rides to the Capitol and a sack lunch usually does the trick for some. The whole “paid” protesting thing is not a far-fetched idea or claim.


  46. - Curl of the Burl - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 4:04 pm:

    JPD - not sure if a replacement would result in “tens of thousands” of people in a Congressional district losing coverage.


  47. - Cheryl44 - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 4:10 pm:

    Google and Wikipedia disagree with you.

    Please learn how to use the internet. Those sources are at about Weekly World News level.


  48. - DuPage Saint - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 4:21 pm:

    Town hall should be limited to registered voters in the district and even more fun to people who actually voted in the previous election


  49. - d.p.gumby - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 4:36 pm:

    If all these Repub congress critters weren’t in the pocket of the NRA allowing every crazy in the country to own a gun, there would be less for them to fear!


  50. - DuPage Bard - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 4:57 pm:

    The best town hall attended is on Election Day.


  51. - Ggeo - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 5:19 pm:

    Have a town hall every night. Answer every question clearly and honestly, even if you get booed. People will stop showing up.


  52. - jw - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 5:40 pm:

    just left Shimkus a few questions and comments on his web site wonder if he will reply?


  53. - walker - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 5:51 pm:

    Just do it. Some might yell, but it’s almost always a healthy exchange. Most groups are courteous, and most are in fact local constituents. No one is paid, and to assume they are demonstrates foolishness.

    Simply let everyone know you will take the questions on ACA, (or whatever is hot, at the end), and you will give them plenty of time. Then the direct response to other issues usually evens tempers out a bit. I have seen these meetings handled with openness and honesty.


  54. - Blue dog dem - Wednesday, Feb 22, 17 @ 9:58 pm:

    Please somebody tell me i get to keep my doctor.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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