Monday, March 14, 2011

Town Hall, Shmown Hall - Chris Christie's Taxpayer Funded Political Rallies

How about a moratorium on reporting on Governor Christie's so-called "town hall meetings" until one or more is held in the evening or on a weekend, when working people can attend? Now, if you are not on the Governor's coveted mailing list, you must scour the news websites for announcements, which typically come out with 1-2 days notice. By then, the Faithful have already been tipped off, and can make arrangements to attend, while the rest of us must either miss the event due to work, or jeopardize our jobs by calling in sick. There is a "town hall" scheduled for Woodbridge Tuesday morning. dutifully announced the event on Thursday but managed to leave out the date and location. This has since been corrected in later versions of the post.

I have been to one of these, and from what I witnessed and have read about subsequent town hall meetings, they are routine, the same tired stories. The same script.

The Governor approaches the stage to wild applause, talks about "reform" (since when did "reform" become a synonym for "dismantling"?), blasts the usual scapegoats, the Legislature, public workers, and reminds us that his beef is not with teachers but the NJEA.

Then comes the Q&A, which may result in a "YouTube" moment, followed by his closing remarks, a heart-wrenching story about visiting his cancer-stricken mother on her deathbed, where she tells him to get back to work because "there's nothing left unsaid between us". Every town hall ends with this story, and there is barely a dry eye in the house.

Now, I am not in any way mocking Mrs. Christie's untimely death, but I cannot help but wonder, if she was the tough cookie he often describes, would she approve of her son cynically exploiting this intimate mother-son moment to score political points? I am sure my late mother would haunt my ass, big-time, if I pulled a stunt like that.

Note that, ever since the fiasco in Parsippany, where the Governor invited a questioner to the stage, berated him, and had him expelled from the meeting by his State Police detail, there have been no more reports of confrontations at these town halls. Is this the sign of a new, mellowed, improved Chris Christie, or has his staff become more adept at packing the hall with sycophants? Lately the format has featured the Governor performing in-the-round, in a roped-off area resembling a pro wrestling ring.

In my last post about possible 1st amendment issues with holding one of these town halls at a Catholic church facility, on Ash Wednesday, a Catholic holiday, Blue Jersey staff writer Deciminyan posted the following comment:
Is it time yet to post a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that these "Town Hall' meetings are really political events and should be funded by Christie's shadow campaign organizations instead of the taxpayer?
Good question. As long as these events continue to be held at a time to maximize a pro-Christie crowd, when it is difficult or impossible for working people to attend, the question remains, are they really "town hall meetings" or partisan campaign events?

If they are the latter, and each one follows the same predictable script, why bother covering them, other than to raise this question and explore possible FEC violations?

1 comment:

Sarafina Rose said...

Here, here, Jeff! They are ridiculous. You and I know what happens to anyone who does go on their lunch hour and express dissent...