The Washington Post

Lawmakers ‘can’t hide’ over August break

Members of the House of Representatives leave the Capitol as Congress begins its summer recess. (Chip Somodevilla/GETTY IMAGES)

Seems that lawmakers are torn over holding town halls and other public forums — on one hand, they know they have to have them (because it’s pretty important to meet with the people they ostensibly work for), but on the other hand, they worry that the sessions could get out of control.

With divisive issues — immigration and health care, particularly — roiling voters, public events have the potential to produce embarrassing exchanges, or at least just turn into circuses.

Trying to keep their plans under the radar, many lawmakers were quietly announcing their district events, direct-mailing constituents and keeping the dates and times off their Web sites, where they could easily be shared among the activist set.

Nice try.

As our colleague Matea Gold points out, folks from both sides of the political spectrum are compiling the schedules of members of Congress, essentially crowdsourcing their way to knowing where the lawmakers will be showing their faces.

FreedomWorks has set up an online “Demand a Townhall” portal for people to share events happening in their district at which they plan to apply none-too-gentle pressure on lawmakers to make sure they’re “everything they can to defund ObamaCare.”

“You can go on recess, but you can’t hide,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe warned in a statement.

Meanwhile, progressive group Americans United for Change has something similar planned. The group is launching a Web site this week that will let the activist community know where GOP members will be at any given time.

The plan is to effectively turn them into an army of “trackers,” by urging them to pose questions (there’s a list of suggested tough queries on the Web site for issues like guns, jobs, and immigration), film their interactions, and share them.

Well, at least when members of Congress are asked in September what they did on their summer vacations, they’ll have plenty of photos to show.

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.
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