@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Ellmers staffer denies 'pay-per-view' slam

Posted August 17, 2011 5:12 p.m. EDT

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers’ spokesman is taking issue with a Politico article that blasts Ellmers for “refusing to hold free, open town hall meetings for constituents” this month, but appearing at an event with an entry fee.

The story accuses Ellmers and fellow GOP Reps. Paul Ryan, Ben Quayle and Lou Barletta of trying avoid open public meetings that might be attended by angry constituents, preferring to appear only at events with an entry fee or other restrictions on access.

The report was quickly circulated by Democratic operatives in NC.

Spokesman Tom Doheny confirms Ellmers has no town hall meetings scheduled for August. But she will speak to the monthly meeting of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees in Fayetteville on Aug. 24th. Attendees are required to pay for a $13 lunch buffet.

“She was invited to speak to the group,” Doheny said. “She’s a guest speaker. The reason they’re charging an entrance fee is because they’re serving lunch. We wish they weren’t charging an entrance fee, but it’s their event.” 

Doheny said Ellmers had a town hall meeting in late spring, and is “planning on having a bunch” more soon. “She’s planning on having them in the fall, after people get back from vacations, so we can get the biggest bang for the buck.”

In the meantime, he said, Ellmers has been holding “tele-town halls,” conference calls with constituents. “We had one August 2nd, the day after the vote on the debt ceiling. The [invitation] call went out to 16,400 people. We had 5,000 people on the tele-town.”

“We’re trying to reach the largest amount of people possible,” Doheny said. “If we did a public town hall, we’d be lucky to get a couple hundred people at most. People really like it. They don’t have to drive. It’s right in their living room.”

The Politico report makes “tele-town halls” sound unusual, but they’re not. In fact, in 2008, another Politico story chronicled the calls' rising popularity among congressmembers.