When Congress recessed earlier this month, Senators Enzi and Barrasso and Representative Cheney all held office hours and visited communities around Wyoming – but did not hold larger public events in the state.
Some Wyomingites weren’t happy about that, so one started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for an ad in the Casper Star Tribune’s Sunday edition. The half-page ad would criticize Wyoming’s Congressional delegation for not holding larger public forums around the state. Emily Siegel started the GoFundMe because she said people were frustrated at how difficult it was to find their Senators when they were on recess.
“It was through multiple, multiple conversations on Facebook. People trying to find our Senators around town. People feeling like they showed up where the Senators were, and they went out the back door, instead of coming out and meeting a group out front and just saying ‘I’m willing to hear your concerns.’ So this really didn’t come from any one group. This is a really broad-based discontent,” said Seigel.
Since the GoFundMe page was created, it has raised more than double its goal of $1,075.
Senator Mike Enzi’s Press Secretary Max D’onofrio said Enzi has essentially stopped doing town halls.
“At a town hall usually someone stands up in the front and they talk to the audience,” said D’onofrio. “For years he did town halls and found that people didn’t like them. He found that really what they wanted to do was they wanted to talk to him so now he holds listening sessions.”
D’onofrio said in listening sessions, constituents get up and voice their concerns to Enzi and at the end he addresses some of the issues.
Barrasso’s Cheyenne office said he wasn’t holding town hall meetings that they knew of, but both Enzi and Barrasso occasionally hold joint tele-town halls from Washington D.C. where people can call in.
Seigel said the people supporting the GoFundMe would be happy with a listening session, as long as it was a face to face opportunity to talk with their Senators or Representative.
“The idea that our Senators are part of shutting down that dialogue by not even showing up in the state and saying anybody who wants to can come stand in front of me and tell me how they feel about all these changes going on. To me that’s the biggest loss in our democracy right now is the shutting down of dialogue,” Seigel said.