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Paul Ryan Attended 50 Fundraisers But Refused to Hold a Town Hall Meeting

June 6, 2017 | Adam Smith

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan attended nearly 50 fundraising events in more than a dozen states after he and his caucus voted for legislation last month to tear health insurance from millions of people to give those same big donors a tax break. That bill, the American Health Care Act, is so unpopular that Ryan is spending most of his time raising money to keep his majority, CNN reported this morning.

In just the last month, CNN reported, “Ryan has held nearly 50 fundraising events in 13 different states.” He has raised $22 million for Republicans in 2017 alone—about $141,000 a day.

During the same period, Ryan refused to hold town hall meetings in his district—making it hard for his constituents to let him know how they feel about the health care bill and other issues being debated in Congress. Instead he held several “closed to the public” events that limit the number of constituents who are able to make their voices heard.

In the 2016 election, just 1 percent of the money Ryan raised for his campaign and leadership PAC—$222,000 out of $17.4 million–came from donors in his district, according to Every Voice analysis of data from the Center for Responsive Politics. The top giving areas to his campaign were Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New York City. Top giving donors include executives and PACs at big banks, Wall Street firms, and insurance companies.

This reliance on a elite set of donors knocks our democracy out of balance. The agenda Ryan is pursuing–taking health insurance away from millions of people to give tax breaks to the wealthy, rolling back energy regulations to benefit billionaires like the Koch brothers, and repealing financial regulations passed after the 2008 economic collapse–are all policies that help these donors he’s spending all his time with.

We need to fix our broken campaign finance system so that our politicians are accountable only to their constituents, not big donors. Instead of running around the country collecting checks like it’s a giant Monopoly board, Ryan should support legislation like Rep. John Sarbanes’ Government by the People Act. It would give everyday people a bigger voice in politics by encouraging candidates to raise small-dollar donations that would be matched on a six-to-one basis. With the Government by the People Act, members of Congress could focus on their job and their constituents, not dialing for dollars from lobbyists and special interests hoping for special favors.

Adam Smith

Adam Smith is Every Voice's communications director.