Rep. Barletta Abandons "Obligation To Face Our Constituents"

August 23, 2011 11:36 am ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Lou Barletta

During his run for Congress last year, Rep. Lou Barletta (R-PA) repeatedly criticized his opponent's alleged inaccessibility to voters. Seizing on then-Rep. Paul Kanjorski's (D-PA) preference for telephone town halls, Barletta held a series of meetings throughout the district, saying, "Since Mr. Kanjorski won't meet with the people, I will." In a July 5, 2010, interview on Fox News, Barletta explained that elected officials have an "obligation to face our constituents" because "we're servants":

BARLETTA: [H]e has an obligation to and should be able to answer any question that anyone asks of him.

You know, I'm a mayor, and I have people come to our council meetings and they say things just to get in the paper. But, again, as an elected official, we have an obligation to face our constituents. They have hired us. Whether we agree with the questions they ask or not, we're servants of theirs. And that's why they call us public servants.

However, a few months in Washington and a round of heated town hall meetings earlier this year seem to have changed Barletta's perspective on his duty as a public servant. As Politico reports, the freshman Republican is abandoning public forums, in part because he thinks voters are unfairly blaming him for the sluggish economy:

Barletta is one of at least four "pay per view" members of Congress who POLITICO reported last week are appearing at public events that charge an admission fee, while skipping the public and free town-hall format during the August recess.

The first-term former Hazelton mayor told the Times Leader that people protesting at his office and his events asking "Where are the jobs?" should be directing their anger elsewhere.

"What other elected officials are having town hall meetings?" Barletta asked. "How can you blame someone who has been in office for eight months why no jobs are coming here? I hope these protesters are asking all elected officials, especially those that have been in office for years, what they are doing to bring jobs here."

Like Barletta, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is only appearing this month at closed meetings that require voters to open their wallets to speak directly to their congressman. In August 2009, when public anxiety over health care reform resembled the frustration with Republicans today, Ryan held 17 public meetings and boasted, "I shattered the attendance record at my town halls."