Freshman Republican Congressman Mike Gallagher has decided against large town hall-style listening sessions during his first four-plus months in office. Gallagher has said, in various venues, that he is open to dialogue but prefers it one on one or in small groups because of organized liberal opposition at the larger events where disruption has been a much larger goal than discussion around the country.
Sumner Truax, a member of the Outagamie County Democratic Party, held a Friday news conference in downtown Green Bay to announce a “listening session that “Wisconsin residents” have taken about themselves to schedule for Gallagher on May 30. Gallagher has said he is unavailable. Truax painted the event as an effort by Gallagher’s constituents to have their representative address their concerns. He dismissed Gallagher’s claims that public town halls elsewhere were “circuses and theatrics.” So, Media Trackers asked Truax some questions.
First, a television news photographer asked Truax what his title was. Truax said he is just a citizen. Media Trackers then asked if he was indeed a member of the Outagamie County Democratic Party. Truax answered, truthfully, that he was.
Media Trackers then challenged Truax’s depiction of the event as a grass roots efforts. We pointed out to Truax that on Twitter he seemed to indicate that the event was organized by the radical liberal group, One Wisconsin Now. Truax denied that. We then showed him the tweet:
— Sumner Truax (@sumnertruax) May 8, 2017
When confronted with this, Truax claimed he didn’t know how to use Twitter very well and didn’t realize putting @Onewisconsinnow at the front of the tweet would imply they were hosting the event. Truax tweeted after the event, reiterating that One Wisconsin had no role, with a qualifier: “of which I’m aware:”
— Sumner Truax (@sumnertruax) May 12, 2017
Further damaging Truax’s claim that he’s simply a concerned citizen involved in a grass root effort is a March 31 tweet to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), where Truax literally requests “marching orders”:
Further, the group “Indivisible” is promoting the event, further denting Truax’s claims about “concerned Wisconsin residents” being behind the effort.”
Truax also suggested to Media Trackers that large town hall gatherings were a better communication medium than the small group gatherings, one on one sessions or tele -town halls that Gallagher has been holding:
“I don’t think it’s a fair statement to make (that one one one communication is more effective than group communication). I think one on one can be an effective way of communication, but I also think group communication, if effectively moderated, can be more effective.”
In fact, Truax admitted that Gallagher has reached out to him for one on one sessions but that in each occasion Truax was out of town and unable to attend.
At one point, a group of supporters assembled behind Truax began challenging Media Trackers’ line of questioning, asking who we work for and ultimately engaging in debate with us. One supporter accused us of “trying to take this (the event) over.”
When asked for a response, Gallagher spokesperson Madison Wiberg sent the following statement:
“Since Congressman Gallagher took office just a few months ago, he’s hosted multiple listening sessions on healthcare and other important issues with hundreds of constituents, held dozens of one-on-one constituent meetings, and hosted telephone town halls that have reached over 200,000 people in the 8th District. He takes constituent engagement incredibly seriously and it’s unfortunate that Democratic partisans are masquerading as though they have neutral objectives. If the Democratic party wants to have a protest rally they should call it for what it is.”
You can hear an edited version of the audio from the event here:
You can view raw video of the event here (including the group of supporters behind Truax challenging us and calling us “a right wingnut”:
Update: On Monday, One Wisconsin Now’s Scot Ross eloquently denied on Twitter that his organization was involved:
— Scot Ross (@rossacrosswi) May 15, 2017