In U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger's first year and half in office, he held 50 town hall meetings, where he took direct questions from constituents. The Republican from Channahon held such meetings regularly until 2016.
When he first ran for Congress, he promised to hold town halls.
For the last few months, though, he has held none. He called two recent events town halls, but they were actually question-and-answer sessions where handpicked moderators read selected written questions.
A town hall is defined as "an event at which a politician or public official answers questions from members of the public." No go-betweens. Even an area Republican politician told me the question-and-answer sessions were in no way town halls.
Last week, the House began its four-week recess. In the first week, Kinzinger attended a variety of functions, but none were advertised for the general public. The same went for the second week. In at least two instances, he avoided questions from concerned residents.
A video is circulating on social media of a man who tried to ask Kinzinger a "quick question" after a Dixon event more than a week ago. He wanted to know about Kinzinger's take on a bipartisan effort to fix Obamacare.
Kinzinger briefly looked at the man and moved away, with aides walling off the congressman from the public.
The next day, the congressman honored veterans in Ottawa. Afterward, a man wanted to ask him about bipartisanship — a softball question. But Kinzinger said he had no time to answer it.
I can identify with the inquiring constituents. When Kinzinger held a public meeting in Pontiac in June, he spoke about the need for a civil tone in Washington. I tried to ask him how he squared such rhetoric with his charge that same day that President Barack Obama had a "sinister" plan to doom Obamacare.
Cordoned off by staff, Kinzinger ignored the question.
Sure, Kinzinger serves a solidly Republican district and enjoys bulging campaign coffers. But isn't he morally obligated as an elected representative to listen to the people he serves? The 2009 version of Kinzinger certainly believed so. At the time, he lashed out at his predecessor, Debbie Halvorson, for failing to hold town halls on health care.
“I find this an outrageous abdication of responsibility on Ms. Halvorson’s part,” he said in a news release. “If she doesn’t know it, the people of this district are passionate about having their voices heard on this vital vote on the kind of health care they will have for the rest of their lives. Ms. Halvorson ignored their concerns on the job-killing cap and trade vote and we cannot let her get away with phony excuses of having no time in a five-week window for real public input on health care.”
As it turns out, health care has been a big issue again this year. People are still passionate about the subject. Yet Halvorson is long gone from the political scene and Kinzinger is virtually assured of re-election. Listening to constituents is apparently so yesterday.
Shredding for Mautino?
State Rep. Jerry Long, R-Streator, is holding a "free shred event" 9 a.m. to noon Saturday outside La Salle-Peru High School. This is where you can get all your personal documents shredded, so they don't end up in the wrong hands.
Boy, where was Long when one of his predecessors, former Rep. Frank Mautino, could have used this free service?
In the last quarter of 2015, Mautino raised thousands for his campaign account, even though he was leaving his job to become state auditor general. Explaining the unusual surge in donations, Mautino told Springfield's Illinois Times he had some costs for closing up shop, including shredding documents from his time in office.
The timing of that comment, which may have been facetious, could not have been any worse given the questions that arose later.
DAVID GIULIANI is a reporter for The Times. His weekly column "As It Is" expands upon regular news coverage by adding his insight and ideas. He can be reached at 815-431-4041 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tt_dgiuliani.