Ah, the town hall — at once one of the purest institutions of our representative democracy and a complete and utter pain in the ass for the congressmen who hold them. Two summers ago, it was the Democrats who caught hell at their town halls from tea partiers incensed about the socialistic health-care reform plan. Now congressmen from both parties, back in their home districts on August recess, face constituents angry over the crappy economy, the ballooning debt, or the threats to sacred entitlements like Medicare and Social Security. Many congressmen have decided to forgo town halls altogether, while others are charging a fee to attend as a way to weed out the riffraff. And one congressman who is holding town halls is taking drastic measures to control the fallout. The Huffington Post reports:
After banning and confiscating cameras at his town hall events, Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) is taking heat from all sides — including from Tea Party activists Eric Odom and Judson Phillips.
At a town hall meeting on Monday, a Chabot staffer directed a Cincinnati police officer to seize video cameras and cell phones from two Democratic activists who were attending the event.
This is the first report of cameras being confiscated at Chabot's town halls, although he has been banning them since at least June.
Yep, even the tea partiers are pissed off at Chabot. A true uniter, this guy.
The controversy has yielded a rare moment of agreement between progressives and Tea Party activists. Odom sharply criticized Chabot in an email to supporters on Thursday, writing, "Just when you think you've seen it all ... a story breaks about a Republican Congressman (or his staff) instructing police to confiscate cameras from constituents in the audience of a townhall event! Yep, you read that right, at a public townhall event, in a public venue (high school gym), hosted by a public official and coordinated by public staffers, personal/private cameras and cell phones are now being forcefully removed to keep video footage from hitting YouTube." ....
Phillips also criticized Chabot Wednesday, writing in a blog post, "Chabot is a moron. First, you cannot confiscate the property of a private citizen without a warrant or some other due process. Second, and I will type this slowly just in case Chabot is reading this so he will understand this. PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME."
A spokesman claims the policy was put in place to ensure the privacy of the voters who attend the meetings, but a more likely explanation is that it's meant to prevent politically hazardous clips of Chabot from making their way onto YouTube. Ironically, the policy has directly resulted in this politically hazardous clip — of a police officer taking away a woman's camera — making its way onto YouTube.