“Town hall” update

With no advance warning, Congressman Goodlatte Thursday evening notified people who had signed up online that he was holding a “telephone town hall.”

If anyone wanted to participate, they had to drop whatever they were doing or had planned for the evening.

Ellen Mayock of Lexington posted on her blog:

People all over the United States, including those of us in Virginia’s 6th District (for the U.S. Congress), are usually quite busy at 6:49pm.  There are dinners to make, the elderly to look in on, children to get to activities and to feed, bathe, and get to bed.   Some of us are still at work or headed out to work.  That’s why many of us did not receive Congressman Bob Goodlatte’s automated invitation to his “telephone town hall meeting” until well into the call, which began at 7:00pm, eleven minutes after the message was left.  Here’s the message Goodlatte left:

“Hi.  This is Congressman Bob Goodlatte.  It’s Thursday evening and I was calling to invite you to participate in a live, telephone town meeting to hear from you about issues before Congress.  I regret that I missed you.  If the call is still in progress, you can join by calling {#}.  Otherwise, if I may be of assistance to you, please contact my Roanoke office at {#} or my Lynchburg office at {#}.  Also, if you’d like to receive important updates from my office, I encourage you to sign up to receive. {message cuts off}.”

…..

By the time I called in, I had missed about the first 17 minutes of the conversation.  It turns out, though, that 43 minutes of insensitive responses to individuals genuinely concerned about social security benefits, Medicare cuts, the proposed decimation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the executive branch’s dangerous cover-up of its multiple links to Russia and cybersecurity threats was plenty of time.  In fact, Congressman Goodlatte uses the telephone to good advantage.  He tightly controls the medium by accepting a limited number of calls, reading from pre-packaged GOP scripts, and channeling all potentially troublesome questions into reassurances about how he is taking care of the safety and security of good United States citizens.  It becomes rather easy for listeners on the call to guess who are the bad U.S. citizens.

Katie Webb Cyphert of Lynchburg provided the following summary of what she heard during the so-called town hall:

1. A woman was asking about Obamacare and how a repeal would be terrible for low-income folks. Goodlatte talked about Medical Savings Accounts and how all the Obamacare stuff (keep your plan, keep your doctor) had been proven false.

2. A caller said she prays for the elected officials and wonders why folks won’t give Trump a chance. Goodlatte agreed and thanked her for the prayers.

3. A man said he’s known Bob Goodlatte since his first election, but that the last several years Goodlatte has become a lapdog and is backing policies that are contrary to our American values.

4. A poll was conducted on whether sanctuary cities should still get federal dollars. I didn’t catch the results for Yes and No, but 46% said not sure.

5. A man asked when they’re going to raise the minimum wage. Goodlatte said that the state can do so and to call state representatives.

6. A man said he got a Social Security increase of 31 cents per month but his electric bill is $610. How are people supposed to make ends meet? Goodlatte said that the new health plan would lower costs for Medicare participants.

6. A woman asked about the ACA Repeal and how it would affect those currently on Social Security and Medicare, for which they’ve paid. Goodlatte said a consumer-driven plan with medical savings accounts would help.

7. A woman called and read her email (to which she hadn’t received a response) about Flynn, Conway, and investigations. Goodlatte said he’s in favor of investigating the Russian discussions and leaks.

8. Another poll question on whether countries like Iran and North Korea pose a threat to the US. Results were 80% yes, to which Goodlatte said that’s why we need the temporary stricter travel vetting.

9. A man invited Goodlatte to the Town Hall on Wednesday at 4:30 in Vinton and then said not to mess up Social Security and Medicare. Goodlatte said he can’t attend Wednesday.

Meanwhile The Roanoke Times reported Thursday:

Sixth District Rep. Bob Goodlatte has declined an invitation to appear at a town hall meeting organized by a local grass-roots organization demanding a meeting with him next week.

Goodlatte, R-Roanoke County, was holding a scheduled telephone town hall with constituents Thursday evening, his spokeswoman, Beth Breeding, said. “Congressman Goodlatte’s staff notified the group earlier today that he is unable to attend,” Breeding said in an email Thursday.

Roanoke Indivisible, a local chapter of the national progressive organization Indivisible that has sprung to life in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidency, announced via Facebook a “People’s Town Hall for Bob Goodlatte” at 4:30 p.m. Feb. 22 at the Charles R. Hill Senior Center in Vinton.

Under pressure, Goodlatte promises “telephone town halls”

After demonstrations across the Sixth District and a flood of constituent email and phone requests for Congressman Goodlatte to hold face-to-face town hall meetings, he has responded by… promising to hold more “telephone town halls.”

He even added a page to his Congressional website for people who want to sign up for them.

But Goodlatte has carefully avoided promising any actual face-time at meetings open to everyone in the district. (In fact he has not held such a meeting since 2013.)  And “telephone town halls” are a poor means for communication between a legislator and the people he is supposed to represent. Phil Stump, a retired Lynchburg College professor and Indivisible Lynchburg organizer, explained the problem in an article in the Lynchburg News & Advance:

“I tried to participate in one of the call-in town halls in the past that [Goodlatte] had, and it was hopelessly frustrating. I just gave up after a while,” Stump said. The format allowed aides to screen callers and did not allow for the “possibility for interchange” with Goodlatte or other constituents, Stump said.

Goodlatte greeted by protesters in Edinburg

Congressman Goodlatte came to Edinburg in Shenandoah County on February 13. The Northern Virginia Daily reports:

[Goodlatte] invited area businesspeople, elected officials and other community leaders to a luncheon Monday to discuss, among other topics, President Donald Trump’s executive orders, the Affordable Care Act and Goodlatte’s role in what some perceived to be an attempt at weakening the Office of Congressional Ethics.

Edinburg’s Carmella’s Restaurant was the location selected for the talk, which was on an invitation-only basis. Goodlatte said that talks of this nature have been common throughout his time in Congress.

“This is really an opportunity for local elected officials, community leaders, leaders of nonprofit organizations (and) business leaders to talk about issues,” Goodlatte said. “This is something I’ve been doing the entire time that I’ve been in Congress and I do it all across my district. … We do these on a regular basis and it’s an opportunity for folks to hear what’s going on in Washington, but also, importantly to me, to tell me the things about issues that are going on here that may be of importance to them.”

Goodlatte said he supported President Trump’s now-suspended travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries but he criticized its implementation. He again defended his failed effort to weaken the Office of Congressional Ethics and affirmed his support for repealing the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with a “better plan,” although he apparently offered no details.

Goodlatte and his guests were not the only people present, as 25 protesters outside the restaurant expressed their concerns about the way they feel Goodlatte has been representing them. Chief among them was what they feel is inadequate accessibility to their elected official. Among the signs present, one read “Town Hall Now” and another, “Bob, we need to talk.”

One protester was Kay Ely-Pierce, with Shenandoah Indivisibles.

“He has not had a town hall meeting where he allows his constituents to actually dialogue with him since 2013,” she said. “It needs to be a meeting where all his constituents can be. That’s what a town hall is and that’s what we’re here for. We just want to talk to him. … That face-to-face dialogue is really the key to human understanding.”

…..

The protesters stood just outside the restaurant as the congressman delivered his remarks inside.  Goodlatte explained why the event was closed to the public and offered ways for those seeking to communicate with him on how to do so.

“We have a large list and we invite people from that list and we encourage people to sign up for the list, but that’s how that works,” he said. “I am very, very accessible to them (protesters). I stopped and said hello to them on my way in here, but we have a multitude of different ways to communicate with our constituents, including telephone town hall meetings, including open-door meetings where they can speak to my staff – and everything that my staff receives from any constituent comes to me – and we always respond to them, too. We’re interested in hearing their concerns as well.”

…..

When asked about the demonstrators’ desire for an in-person town hall meeting, Goodlatte said that he and his office are “considering what all of our options are,” and again referred to the telephone town halls, which Ely-Pierce likened to a child being raised by its parents via Skype.

Goodlatte described the protest as part of a larger, wider-reaching demonstration.

“This is a nationwide thing,” he said. “This is not something that’s unique to the 6th District. This is going on in every single congressional district in the country. It’s organized by a national organization that is not happy with the outcome of the election. These are my constituents so they’re welcome to be here and express their opinions as well.”

Goodlatte should know that the protest in Edinburg, and other protests across the Sixth District, are not organized by a “national organization.” They are organized and attended by the constituents he is supposed to be representing in Congress. It’s good that he believes these constituents are welcome to express their opinions. It would be even better if he would take the time to meet with them face-to-face and listen to them.

Your move, Congressman Goodlatte

In my first post at Goodlatte Watch in December, I reported:

Sixteen Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee have written to chairman Bob Goodlatte asking him to schedule hearings on the potential conflicts between Donald Trump’s business interests and his future position as president of the United States.

I can find no evidence that Goodlatte even bothered to reply to the letter, let alone schedule hearings.

Now The Washington Post reports:

In an escalation of Democratic efforts to highlight questions about President Trump’s potential conflicts of interest and alleged ties to Russia, a senior House Democrat is dusting off a little-used legislative tool to force a committee debate or floor vote on the issue.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) filed a “resolution of inquiry” Thursday, a relatively obscure parliamentary tactic used to force presidents and executive-branch agencies to share records with Congress. Under House practice, such a resolution must be debated and acted upon in committee or else it can be discharged to the House floor for consideration.

…..

Nadler, the No. 2-ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said that his move came after Democrats sent two letters to Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and another letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) asking for investigations into Trump’s financial entanglements.

“All of this demands investigation, and of course they’ve refused,” Nadler said Thursday at the House Democrats’ annual policy retreat [in Baltimore]. “This resolution will force them to confront the issue.”

…..

Under House rules, a resolution of inquiry is referred to a committee, which has 14 legislative days to debate and vote on whether how it should be reported to the floor. If the committee does not take action in that 14-day span, the measure can be called up on the House floor for a debate and vote.

A spokeswoman for Goodlatte declined to comment Thursday on whether he plans to take up Nadler’s resolution.

Of course she did.

Unfortunately for Goodlatte’s efforts to evade his responsibilities as head of the Judiciary Committee, things just got real.

Update: You can read the letters that the House Judiciary Committee Democrats sent to Goodlatte here and here.

Goodlatte’s campaign well-funded by tech, internet, entertainment industries

Congressman Goodlatte staunchly defended President Trump’s  now-suspended executive order banning entry to the United States from seven Muslim-majority countries and otherwise restricting travel and immigration. As chair of the House Judiciary Committee, he says he “proudly allowed” his staff to work with Trump’s staff on preparing the order– although he won’t say if his staffers signed nondisclosure agreements before doing so.

In contrast, more than 100 companies filed court papers February 5 declaring that Trump’s executive order “violates the immigration laws and the Constitution.”

The ban represents “a sudden shift in the rules governing entry into the United States, and is inflicting substantial harm on U.S. companies,” says the court document.

Among the companies signing on to the motion are Facebook, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Twitter and eBay– all of which contributed to Goodlatte’s most recent reelection campaign through their political action committees.

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, Goodlatte’s campaign committee received more than $1 million from non-party PACs in 2015 and 2016. They included:

• $10,000 from Facebook Inc. PAC

• $10,000 from Google NetPac

• $10,000 from Intel PAC

• $10,000 from Microsoft Corporation PAC

• $1,000 from Twitter Inc. #PAC

• $7,500 from eBay Inc. Committee for Responsible Government

In an earlier court motion, Amazon supported the attorney general of Washington state in a lawsuit against Trump’s immigration order.

Amazon says it has 49 employees born in the seven Muslim-majority countries included in the ban who are legally working for the company in the United States or elsewhere. Amazon says their work and travel could be disrupted.

And yet– Amazon PAC donated $2,500 to Goodlatte’s campaign.

Goodlatte’s campaign had more predictable donors– including the American Petroleum Institute ($1,000), Bank of America ($2,500), Comcast ($10,000), Delta Airlines ($2,000), Dominion Power ($5,000), Eli Lilly ($4,000), Northrop Grumman ($5,000), Exxon Mobil ($10,000), Halliburton ($2,500), the NRA ($7,000) and Goldman Sachs ($3,500).

But among the committees helping to keep Goodlatte in Congress was the PAC for the Directors Guild of America ($10,000). At the DGA Awards February 4, The New York Times reports:

[P]resenters and winners repeatedly voiced alarm about the Trump administration, and said it was largely up to Hollywood to save the day.

“We all know the story being written now is really, really bad,” Alejandro G. Iñárritu, a previous two-time winner, for “Birdman” for “The Revenant” told the audience. “Actually it’s a bad remake of one of the worst stories of the last century. The only way we win is by telling good, complex, and truthful human stories.”

Goodlatte co-chairs the Congressional Internet Caucus. The House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, includes a subcommittee on intellectual property and the internet.

The Staunton News Leader reported in 2015:

The congressman’s staunch support for copyright protections has endeared him to the liberal movie and music industry crowd. As he was about to assume his chairmanship two years ago, CNET Magazine announced Goodlatte as “Hollywood’s new copyright ally.” The International Business Times reported… that the Motion Picture Association of America has a priority of raising money for Goodlatte.

He said he doesn’t consider himself “Hollywood’s congressmen.” His alliance with movie and music makers stems from his focus on intellectual property, the ideas and inventions that he believes drive economic growth.

“You come up with a brilliant idea, whether it’s creative like art or music, or movies or books or an invention —something that can be patented,” Goodlatte said. “Then you get rewarded by the government protecting your rights under that; you then have the opportunity to grow the economy.”

Other Hollywood donors to Goodlatte were the PACs of 21st Century Fox ($7,500), Sony Pictures Entertainment ($10,000), Walt Disney Company ($5,500) and the Motion Picture Association of America ($3,000). The Recording Industry Association of America kicked in $5,000.

Ultimately it’s up to ordinary Americans, not Hollywood, to “save the day.” But if Hollywood wants to help, it could start by cutting off the money it doles out to Trump-supporting politicians like Bob Goodlatte.

Goodlatte backs national “right to work” law

Congressman Goodlatte has signed on as a co-sponsor of Rep. Steve King’s bill to further cripple organized labor in the US by enacting a national “right to work” law.

 The first thing to know about misnamed “right to work” laws is that they do not guarantee anyone the right to work. Instead they forbid employers and workers from negotiating agreements that require all workers who benefit from a union contract– including wage increases, health and retirement benefits, paid vacations and a grievance procedure– to pay a share of the cost of union representation. It’s a matter of simple fairness.

“Right to work” should be more accurately called “right to freeload.”

But “right to work” laws don’t just hurt union members. They reduce wages for non-union workers too. In “right to work” states the median annual household income for all families is $6,500 less  than in non-“right to work” states.

So in one sense these laws do guarantee the right to work– for less.

Currently individual states are permitted to enact “right to work” laws. But under the King-Goodlatte bill, they would have no choice in the matter.

Unfortunately Virginia is saddled with a “right to work” law. But that wasn’t enough for Republicans in the General Assembly, who last November tried to get voters to enshrine “right to work” in the state constitution. Fortunately they failed, but there ought to be  lessons for Goodlatte in that failure.

While Goodlatte was being reelected to represent Virginia’s Sixth District by a two-to-one margin, majorities of voters in some of the most heavily Republican parts of the district were rejecting “right to work.” These include the counties of Augusta, Bath, Highland, Page and Rockbridge.

Perhaps the people of the Sixth District aren’t as hostile to organized labor as Goodlatte thinks they should be. 

Goodlatte spotted in Amherst

Although the public was not invited, WDBJ7 reports that Congressman Goodlatte hosted a luncheon with “civic leaders” in Amherst on Feburary 6, at which he discussed repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Goodlatte said Congress is hoping to enact a replacement that will result in lower insurance premiums.

He added there will be a transition period for people on the current health exchange to find new insurance.

Perhaps someone more familiar with Amherst can say how representative these “civic leaders” are. But in the video of the luncheon I spotted no African-Americans, even though African-Americans are 30 percent of the town’s population.

And Goodlatte’s assurances that there will be a replacement for the ACA that will provide insurance to everyone at a lower cost are starting to wear thin. All indications are that Congressional Republicans are still flailing in their efforts to find a suitable replacement.