Are Congressmen Ducking Their Constituents By Not Holding Town Hall Meetings?

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Across the country, members of Congress are being accused of ducking their constituents.

“Where’s Keith? Where’s Keith?” was the chant outside U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus’ office.

Rep. Rothfus is not holding a public town hall meeting during this congressional break. He’s hardly alone.

Neither is Rep. Tim Murphy, Rep. Mike Kelly, or Rep. Mike Doyle.

And when constituents threaten to show up at some scheduled meetings, some congressmen cancel.

That’s what Rep. Murphy did to Duquesne University on Tuesday.

“People outside got word of this, people who had nothing to do with Duquesne University,” Murphy told KDKA radio Wednesday morning. “Adults, who aren’t students at Duquesne University, said they were going to, quote unquote, ‘crash it.’”

The university said it could provide full security — and even screen his questions — but Rep. Murphy postponed anyway.

On Wednesday, Rep. Rothfus was confronted by an angry constituent as he entered a meeting with community bankers in Shaler.

“I find it very disheartening that you will not hold a town meeting just because of what goes on in other places,” Kathy Yoke, of Lower Burrell, told the congressman. “This is Pennsylvania. This is your area.”

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Now citizens are organizing their own town hall meetings and inviting officials to attend.

That’s what University of Pittsburgh law student Liz Dennis is doing in Cranberry Township on Friday at the Hilton Double Tree Hotel.

“I’m not part of any organized effort,” Dennis told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.

“I just believe that it is crucially important for elected officials to hear what their constituents are saying.”

She’s invited Sen. Pat Toomey and Rep. Rothfus.

KDKA’s Jon Delano: “Would you go to an event like that?”

Rep. Rothfus: “Again, my schedule is pretty busy. I’m going across the district. I represent six counties.”

Delano: “So how does an individual constituent get to you? How do they have a chance? They’re not a donor. They’re not a contributor. They’re not a political activist of any party.”

Rep. Rothfus: “We actually get a lot of phone calls in the office. I’ve actually called people back on the telephone. I represent 705,000 people. I wish I could talk to everybody.”

But not this week at town hall meetings.

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