Last week, Senator Jeff Merkley kicked off his August recess with a tour “aimed at explaining why he believes he’s the best candidate to help aging Oregonians”. Billed as the “Protecting The Promise to Our Seniors” tour, the Senator was scheduled to hold eight events in three days across the state. A fairly simple task for an incumbent seeking re-election, or so one would think; the tour quickly devolved into a series of mishaps.
It began last Wednesday with a less than spectacular showing of only three attendees at the campaign’s first stop in Astoria, Oregon. If that weren’t the start the Merkley campaign was hoping for, perhaps they’d be able to right the ship later that afternoon in Hillsboro… or not:
…Before Merkley arrived, there was a spat between his campaign staff and some visitors who wanted to attend the roundtable, thinking it was an open event. A handful of people were already seated when they were asked to leave because they hadn’t been invited.
“I drove all the way over from Scappoose,” said Alta Lynch, 63, who said she attended to hear what Merkley would say about issues pertaining to seniors. Her mother is 94, she said. (8/6/14, The Oregonian)
The situation quickly deteriorated when three seniors looking to join the discussion weren’t admitted to the event. The seniors looking to speak with Senator Merkley about Medicare and Social Security were actually supporters of the Senator, but nonetheless were barred from entering. Riddled with empty chairs and unoccupied desk space, the Merkley camp had trouble explaining why these seniors weren’t worthy of an audience with their federal representative:
So were these events open or closed to seniors looking to engage their junior Senator? It’s hard to say, but apparently the press had just as difficult a time making that distinction.
The Corvallis Gazette-Times had to post three separate columns, and give the event three different names in order to clear up the ensuing confusion:
Thursday Morning, 8/7/14 – Town hall
Thursday Afternoon, 8/7/14 – Private Meeting
Friday Morning, 8/8/14 – Roundtable
What was Jeff Merkley so worried about? Why is someone in public office so cut off from the public he serves? Maybe it was fear that someone might get him on tape saying something patently false – like they did on day two of his tour:
At a “roundtable” discussion on Thursday in Bend, the Senator alleged that Social Security has “never contributed one cent to the deficit, not one cent…” which he knows to be categorically untrue. But, evidently Senator Merkley thought it too good of a sound bite not to use, despite the CBO’s analysis, the White House’s own figures and a former principal deputy commissioner of the SSA rejecting that claim:
“… when Social Security’s financial position worsens the budget deficit grows. Social Security today contributes about $53 billion to the budget deficit—.” Andrew G. Biggs, Former Principal Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration. (10/3/2012)
And finally, there’s this:
While Senator Merkley attempted to use his tour to tie Dr. Monica Wehby to supposed cuts in Medicare and Social Security, he himself was exposed for having actually done so already. In fact, Jeff Merkley is guilty of voting for one of the largest Medicare cuts in history, and against stopping cuts to Medicare Advantage on three separate occasions:
- According To The Nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare Cuts $716 Billion From Medicare. (Congressional Budget Office, Letter To Speaker John Boehner, 7/24/12)
- In March 2010, Merkley Voted To KILL An Amendment That Would Have Prevented Cuts To Medicare Advantage (H.R. 4872, Vote #72: Motion agreed to 56-42: R 0-40; D 54-2; I 2-0, 3/24/10, Merkley Voted Yea)
- In December 2009, Merkley Voted AGAINST A Motion That Would Have Allowed Medicare Advantage Enrollees To Retain Their Existing Benefits (H.R. 3590, Vote #370: Rejected 42-57: R 40-0; D 2-55; I 0-2, 12/8/09, Merkley Voted Nay)
- In December 2009, Merkley Voted AGAINST A Motion That Would Have Prevented Medicare Cuts In The Bill, Including Cuts To Medicare Advantage (H.R. 3590, Vote #358: Motion rejected 42-58: R 40-0; D 2-56; I 0-2, 12/3/09, Merkley Voted Nay)
Jeff Merkley bills himself as a “Senator for all of us” but he sure has a peculiar way of showing it. If Oregonians have concerns about the legislation Jeff Merkley is voting on, then they shouldn’t be shown the door. He has a responsibility to be open and engaging with his constituents.
To the Merkley campaign, the “Protecting The Promise to Our Seniors” Tour might have been nothing more than a press release and a photo op; but to seniors it was billed as an opportunity to share their views and participate in meaningful public discourse. Sadly, Senator Merkley’s tour fell short on both counts.