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Civic Engagement Nebraska Politics

Bacon’s Bogus Townhall

With Congress in recess for 44 days, Bacon plans just one town hall

The House of Representatives went into its annual August recess on July 27 and it won’t gavel into session again until September 9. Despite the fact that this is the third year that Don Bacon has had to plan constituent events for the August recess, his staff confirms he has only one public event planned for the whole 44 days. Just ONE.  And you can call that “one and done” because he held that single event Wednesday night, in the farthest rural corner of his district, in the back room of a sports bar in Waterloo, NE. That leaves him with THIRTY TWO DAYS of spare time to avoid his constituents and meet, instead, with special interest groups, GOP fat cat donors, and, of course, officials from his beloved Offutt AFB (outside his district).

I attempted to attend that town hall event. Constituents were advised that doors would open at 6:30 for the 7:00 event, and that it would last just one hour. I arrived at 6:20 and got in line. After the doors opened, and constituents started shuffling in, they announced just a few minutes later that the venue was “full” and that no more constituents would be allowed in. I wandered up and peeked in. It was indeed full because the “party room” only accommodates up to 85 people.  I think the men’s restroom was larger than that space.

Omaha mayor Jean Stothert was seated in the front row. Others told me that members of the Omaha city council were also in the room. It seems strange to me that Omaha city officials needed to fill “constituent” seats when they can pick up the phone any time and talk with Don Bacon. 

There was a second party room adjacent to the town hall space. That second room was outfitted with snacks and refreshments for Don Bacon’s hand picked donors and VIP’s (like Mayor Stothert). I stepped into the room and one of Bacon’s interns blocked me and squealed for help. It was weird. It occurred to me that the way the constituent line barely moved, Bacon’s staff must have shuffled those VIP’s into the town hall event before allowing us lowly constituents to enter. 

Many more constituents were turned away from the event than were allowed in. But hey, Don Bacon can claim to be doing his duty!

Don Bacon has a pattern of avoiding his constituents. Last year, he was well into the August break before, at the last minute, he announced a public event. You may recall that when he was elected in November of 2016, he resisted public demands that he hold town hall events and he refused to schedule one for months. At the time, the big brave general was afraid to face constituents who might verbally confront him for supporting the already mounting abuses of the Trump administration. 

Bacon designed his town hall format specifically to reduce constituent input. “Questions” (no comments or rants, please) must be submitted in writing before the event begins. If two constituents raise the same issue, he excuses the second constituent’s concerns because, “we’ve already addressed that.”  “Representative” Bacon has flipped the concept of democratic representation on its head. He believes we come to town hall events to hear what HIS opinions are — he’s not there to listen to constituents so that he can represent OUR interests in Washington. 

There is just one question for the residents of Nebraska’s Second Congressional District: How long will we tolerate Don Bacon’s twisted version of “representation”?

By Jay Grabow

A constituent in search of representation.