Lou Barletta and Town Hall Meetings: The Dramatic Saga Continues

By Ali Carey, Contributing Writer

If Lou Barletta has a wheelhouse, this is it.

A few minutes ago, the Congressman’s office sent out a press release with the headline, “Rep. Barletta blasts administration’s granting of amnesty to illegal aliens.”

It’s probably a welcome relief for the Barletta press outfit, which has spent much of the past week battling back an onslaught of criticism over the Congressman’s decision not to hold public town hall meetings.

Barletta attempts to settle a raucus town hall. April 2011

First-term Republican Barletta defeated 13 term Democratic incumbent Paul Kanjorski in November in an strongly Democratic district.  In his campaign Barletta hammered Kanjorski for not holding town hall meetings.

According to an editorial in the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader, following a 90 minute town hall meeting in October, Barletta said, “This isn’t campaign talk. These meetings don’t end after this campaign is over. When I’m congressman, I will continue to hold town hall meetings throughout the 11th District.”

This editorial, and articles like it, have been blasted out to reporters over and over by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and other left-leaning groups.

It’s been only eight months since he took office and already Barletta has decided to suspend his town halls. He’s getting slammed for it.

Of all congressional Republicans, Barletta represents one of the most Democratic-leaning districts. The fact that he’d take lumps is no surprise. But this is the latest in an unpleasant narrative that Barletta has experienced – and contributed to – since January.

Barletta argues that the suspension is not about not wanting to talk with his constituents.

During his eight months in office he has held four town hall meetings – in Lansford, Wilkes-Barre Township, Stroundsburg, Bloomsburg and more. But these meetings were often disruptive.

In an interview with the The Times Leader Barletta said, “In the four town hall meetings I held, each one became a victim of targeted disruption by MoveOn.org… Members of that organization were told what to do to interrupt the meetings. There were near fist fights between people in the audience and the protesters. The police had to remove people on two occasions.”

Then, back in June, Barletta came under scrutiny following reports that his office prohibited the use of recording devices in public meetings after video of previous meetings ended up online.

This morning in an interview with WILK’s Webster & Nancy, Barletta claimed that the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org is harassing him, making town hall meetings hopelessly unproductive.  Barletta said he isn’t interested in putting a forum together which is politically motivated rather than about addressing the issues of his district.

Asked by another interviewer to explain the difference between then and now, Barletta cited the case of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

“The behavior of these protesters has put myself, my staff and innocent people in attendance at risk,” he said. “Three days after I was sworn in (in January), Rep. Gabby Giffords of Arizona and 17 others were shot at a town hall meeting – six died including a 9-year-old-girl.”

Indeed, although raucus town halls are certainly not unheard of in 2010. In the summers of 2009 and 2010, conservative and Tea Party protesters organized appearances at town hall meetings on health care reform – sometimes with disruptive results.  Threats were made and congressional offices were vandalized then, too.

The crux of the criticism – that Barletta criticized Kanjorski for skipping town halls in 2010 and is doing the same thing now – is likely to stick around.

“It’s hypocritical,” said former Kanjorski campaign spokesman Ed Mitchell. “But I can’t say I’m surprised.” Mitchell said Barletta’s new policy would “absolutely” have an impact in the 2012 election.

3 Responses

  1. And maybe we can have a congressman more worried about jobs in his district than cultivating supporters concerned with political boogeymen.

    Barletta is practically writing the Democratic ads for them.

  2. How can there be any validity to this story when the “operative” who disrupted the senior citizen’s meeting in Hazleton on Monday was a plant. I challenge Ali Carey to dispute what I am posting.

    his week started off by the “job seeking” people haunting Lou at the Hazleton Senior Citizen’s Center. Here is a fact.

    One of the so called unemployed persons in the attack appeared in a campaign commercial for Paul Kanjorski last May, 2010.
    Here is a link to that video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZQzGDL5kRo His name is James Luby.

    Now he appears in an AmericanDreamPA video at 2:52. Here is a link to that video.

    James Luby makes the claim in the May, 2010 video he is being retrained with new skills so he can get a job and that Paul Kanjorski helped him and thousands of others. It is now August, 2011. How did Kanjorski’s plan work out for him??

    In the AmericanDreamPA video there is an illegal wiretapping of Cheri Homa, Lou’s secretary, at 59 seconds. They have a log of the call and can corroborate that fact. You cannot record her voice without her consent. This is a two-party consent state.

    These guys are supposedly unemployed in the video but they could afford a full size cut out of Lou. Give me a break.

    He also showed up at a Toomey event. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pshvEs7bCxQ He makes the claim that he works off and on…

    He was a protester calling for health reform in 2009 http://thetimes-tribune.com/news/demonstrators-in-scranton-call-for-health-reform-less-distractions-1.178138?firstComment=40#axzz1W59Bo8GX

    He demonstrated outside Casey’s office last December. http://www.timesleader.com/golackawanna/news/BENEFIT_EXTENSION_ANNOUNCED_12-12-2010.html

    Is this the same guy who is an Independent Motion Pictures and Film Professional ?? http://www.linkedin.com/pub/james-luby/22/56b/952 Here he is on FACEBOOK. http://www.facebook.com/james.luby

    Maybe this guy should be spending more time looking for a job rather than being an activist.

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