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Ellison Report: Fee to See Politicians Invites Plutocracy

Rep. Keith Ellison spoke against admission charge for congressional town hall meetings.

This is a daily selection of new and views on U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), Fridley's representative in Congress. 

American Legion
On MPR's Capitol View, Tom Scheck reported Tuesday that the American Legion's national convention will be held from Aug. 27 to Sept. 1 in Minneapolis. President Obama, GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, Gov. Mark Dayton and Rep. Keith Ellison will be some of the speakers at the event.

Town Hall Fees
Ellison was a guest Tuesday on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Guest host Rev. Al Sharpton interviewed Ellison for a segment called "Town Haul." 

Sharpton introduced several clips that showed GOP leaders being heckled in town hall meetings.

"You see, actual voters were very unhappy," Sharpton said. "Turns out the GOP isn't too keen on those YouTube moments, so they've come up with a solution: Just silence the poor and middle class in their district. Their solution? They've actual started to charge their constituents to ask them questions."

Ellison then gave his take:

"I say shame on them. You know, democracy means, uh, the rulership of the people and these three congressmen who are charging to get access to them really are proving this fear that our country could be lurching toward plutocracy: rulership of the rich."

American Dream
On Wednesday at blogging site Pajamas Media, Ron Radosh wrote about Van Jones' interest in creating the "American Dream Movement." Radosh is an adjunct senior fellow at The Hudson Institute and professor emeritus of history at the City University of New York. Jones is President Obama's former green jobs czar. 

"While Jones introduces it as a left version of the Tea Party, it is more accurately thought of as a 21st century version of the Communist Party’s Popular Front of the 1930s," Radosh writes of the "American Dream Movement."

In his blog, Radosh wrote that Ellison supports Jones' idea:

“I’m so glad that he has clearly recognized that we as progressives cannot concede patriotic themes to the right wing. Why would we ever do that? Everything we love about this country — the right to vote, equality before the law, the right to organize—these things were won by patriotic Americans.”

Amy Paddock August 19, 2011 at 01:45 PM
(During this interview w/Al Sharpton) Keith Ellison: "a duty, a constitutional responsibility, a moral charge and responsibility to listen to the people. It doesn't matter whether you agree with them or not, the fact is, if you are a public servant, the operative word "servant" and this is what we need to be encouraging. If anybody doesn't want to talk to the members of their community, their constituents, then they don't deserve to be in office". I don't mind that there are fees if you chose to go to places that serve food at a location, I do mind not having access to elected leaders if I do not have a choice other then to pay. This is the real problem. Elected members of our state and federal should allow that access. They are "our" public servants, whether you can afford to attend a paid function or not. A long time ago, in some states - there was a poll tax. That meant that if you were poor, you didn't have the money to vote.
Amy Paddock August 19, 2011 at 02:02 PM
*Having access to speak to Representatives and all elected officials should always maintain an in person public forum, in which all people have access. Not "just" selected venues where only those who have the money to access and/or control of audience. Having this access only by paid and private areas, also means that if the business owner or private entity does not like your point of view, no matter how polite - you can be asked to leave the private function. Let's make sure there are opportunities for all in access to speaking to our elected Statesmen and Stateswomen.
Donna Schmitt August 22, 2011 at 12:50 PM
You are implying by your comments that public officials cannot have private fundraisers. Those are paid events that only those who pay for the event are allowed into the event. So the comment that "elected official should always maintain an in person public forum, in which all people have access" is not workable. If you are referring to a Minnesota representative, don't forget we have one of the biggest events coming up, the Minnesota State Fair, that every elected official will be at. Oh wait, you have to pay a fee to get into that, also. Do we have to allow people to get free tickets to this event so that people can see their public officials? I don't think so. Our representatives are at many public functions. Ellison was just at the Columbia Heights City Council meeting that anyone could have attended, but few did. Many elected officials just show up at different events in the areas that they represent. Many of those events do cost money. Every event will reach a different type of person. But our elected official represent all different types and they need to be reached whether it is a paid event or a free event.
Amy Paddock August 22, 2011 at 01:14 PM
I said no such thing Donna. If you re-read my comments, I think you will find that I did not say or imply such a thing. I really think you misread my comments - can't figure out any other reason for you thinking I wrote something I did not write. Must have been a mistake, and I am sure you did not mean to.
John Haluska August 22, 2011 at 02:31 PM
Who is Schmitt trying to kid? You’d think from reading her comment that paying for access to public officials is or should be the norm in our democracy. She no doubt is very familiar with that part of the first amendment which enshrines the individual’s right to petition the government. Isn’t there also something in the constitution about a right to assembly and a right to free speech, etc.? Explain to us then, Ms. Schmitt, how paying to attend a town hall meeting, called ostensibly to hear the voice of the people, squares with these provisions of the constitution? It doesn’t, but that does not matter to the GOP Tea Party whose goal is pay to have your say. While a fund raiser is a fund raiser, a town hall meeting isn’t and never has been. What we have described in this exchange as having to pay to get in town hall meetings is nothing less than the radical right, which it seems includes Ms. Schmitt, trying to screen who gets to voice their opinion to the official “hosting“ the town hall. It violates the spirit of democracy and that of the U. S. Constitution and it works, in fact, as a pre-screen of the questions asked. You certainly would not want any out of work voters, or poor people getting in and speaking their mind, posing real queries that might make the GOP Tea Party official uncomfortable, now would you? No, in the world of the GOP Tea Party and of their radical supporters, only those who have money have any right to have a say in government.
Donna Schmitt August 22, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Amy, Maybe you could give me an example of what you are talking about so that I understand what Ellison was commenting on. Because the one person that I was thinking about, it was in reference to a private event that they were charging for. Maybe they were referencing that this person did not have any other "town meeting" scheduled in August?
Donna Schmitt August 22, 2011 at 05:47 PM
Mr. Haluska, Again, let me ask, what is the example of the town meeting that you are referring to? I think others would like to know. Is this someone from Minnesota or from another state that Rep. Ellison was referring to? As for screening who voices their opinion: Representatives screen all the time for 'virtual town meetings' and thankfully they do, because I would not like listening to a virtual town meeting, online, with a child in the room and someone would start ranting or swearing. Nobody needs to hear that.
John Haluska August 22, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Last week GOP Tea Party Rep. Paul Ryan charged $15 for admission to a town hall meeting he hosted in a blatant effort to screen out those who disagree with his assault on America.That is the most recent nationally reported instance of of using the pay-to-have-your-say technique the GOP Tea Party now employs in screening participants in town hall meetings. I hope that helps MS. Schmitt craft an informed response to Amy Paddock.
Donna Schmitt August 24, 2011 at 12:32 PM
First: why are you concerned about someone from Wisconsin that you wouldn't even vote for? Looking up the information on the internet it isn't a Town Hall Meeting as everyone seems to be implying, it is a dinner at a Rotary Club. Al Franken was a speaker at a similar Rotary Club in Stillwater on Aug 18. http://www.stillwaterrotary.org/ Their cost was $10. Those businesses are going to charge the typical rate for those types of meals and meetings. To call those types of meetings a "Town Hall" is exaggerating.
Amy Paddock August 24, 2011 at 01:09 PM
Donna, as I pointed to in my first comments, it is important for our Public Servants to leave both options open, and not just be selective about who they will talk to, or in a place where it is not viable for all. Cravaack listed his Town Halls, and when it came time for Duluth - he only allowed on event that was paid and organized by another party. It was only after someone protested this, that Cravaack did a last minute offer to meet at an airport. It is not wrong conduct meets at different venues, it is only when you don't allow room for other open venues to the public that is not well done. The comment I wrote was a "reminder" and a heavy one. Al Franken doesn't just "do" rotary meetings. Just the other day, he spoke to Seniors at a facility without cost. Ellison was saying the same thing.
John Anderson September 02, 2011 at 10:39 AM
When Franken charges = acceptable When any GOP charge = unacceptable Normal liberal thinking from rank and file DFL team Paddock/Haluska
John Haluska September 02, 2011 at 12:38 PM
At what town hall has Senator Franken charged a fee to get in? Fund raisers are an entirely different animal and it's a bit surprising that the self-anointed sole spokesperson for our local GOP Tea Party doesn't know the difference between a town hall and a fundraiser. By tradition, an event promoted as a town hall is open to all at no charge and neither questioners or questions are screened, except, of course, at GOP Tea party "town halls" where in recent years it has become more common for would be participants and their questions to be screened, and now an entrance fee!

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