Very quietly, Rep. Richard Hanna has been apparently attempting to rally Republicans since the beginning of the year – after votes on abortion and Executive Orders via Department of Homeland Security funding drew strong negative attention. Already there have been selective robocalls and at least one mass mailing (taxpayer funded) sent out to some constituents since February. In addition, at least one semi-private meet-and-greet took place, March 13, 2015.
Without fanfare, and directly avoiding the press, Rep. Hanna contacted select individuals in the Broome County area to join him at the Plaza Diner in Vestal, NY on March 13, 2015. These cherry-picked individuals were invited for an event from 7:00 AM until 9:00 AM as we were able to learn. While there is no information on the number of people invited, a total of some 30 individuals, all apparently in their mid-forties or older, none people of color, attended the event.
At 7:35 AM, Rep. Richard Hanna arrived at the diner with the compliment of 6 of his staff. It was at this time that authorization was denied, by the staff of Rep. Hanna, to tape or otherwise record the event – including any photos of the event. Permission was given to sit at the event, and that the Congressman would try to take some time to speak with Michael “Vass” Vasquez, president of M V Consulting, Inc (who wrote this article, and was a former candidate for the same seat as the incumbent in 2014).
Rep. Hanna did the usual meet and greet, without speaking to the group as a whole. He shook hands, smiled, and took the opportunity to speak with the gathered exclusive invitees with his ever present staff hovering close by. Each person at the was given a “Congress in your community” flyer. Press secretary Renee Gamela advised that the flyer and event were to share with constituents the services and capabilities available via Rep. Hanna’s office.
The message to constituents – which appears that the overwhelming majority have never received – highlighted several items that seem to be disputable. They include:
- Rep. Hanna promotes his votes to cut wasteful spending - but does not mention or address his vote to allow unfettered debt ceiling increases in 2014, or his votes to fully fund Obamacare (which many consider wasteful, especially considering the botched launch and continuing issues). The only Bill he sponsored to cut wasteful spending was HR 6324, in 2012, that died in the Senate.
- Rep. Hanna promoted his efforts to lower taxes for individuals and businesses - but neglects to mention that the last time he tried to lower corporate taxes was in 2011 (HR 609 – Bill died in House, 32 sponsors).
- Rep. Hanna promoted his support of the 2nd Amendment - but fails to mention his declining to attend a 2014 anti-NY Safe Act rally, and vote for HR 4660 that paid States $19.5 million to add people to the NICS database to deny them gun rights (discussed at length in article House of Representatives passes Bill, enables restriction of 2nd Amendment right). Also see below about the survey.
In fact, Rep. Hanna fails to mention that of the 28 Bills that he has sponsored since 2011, only 4 have been enacted (2 for baseball coins, 1 to name a post office, 1 for a technical regulation change). In addition only 2 Bills passed the House, both in 2012 an election year. One was another technical regulation change, the other was the above mentioned wasteful spending HR 6324. Both of the Bills died and only the technical regulation change has been resubmitted since that time.
The flyer also contained a brief survey. It asked the selected audience to provide an answer to the top economic issue in their opinion. Based on our observations, some answers would likely include Food Stamp legislation – a question asked that Rep. Hanna deferred to his political aide – and jobs for those 55 and older. Another question included whether or not to support natural gas (fracking) in New York. Also whether or not to support additional gun control measures – which seems an odd question for a Representative that states he is a 2nd Amendment advocate with a constituent base that largely is in opposition to gun restrictions such as the NY Safe Act.
Eventually we spoke with Rep. Hanna for a few minutes. He cordially noted that the event was focused on serving the public. He also mentioned strongly that his office was one of the most effective at addressing and resolving concerns of constituents in Congress. There is no known dispute with that claim.
Rep. Hanna responded to our question on his views about the letter to Iran by 47 Republicans, stating,
“I disagree with that. I felt it was inappropriate. When our nation acts and appears divided, especially when the terms of the deal are not final, it does help us. And several of the Republicans have retracted their position already.”
The letter, though essentially correct in its legal standing, has been subject to some backlash and negative media hype. But as of March 11, 2015, none of the 47 Senators who signed the letter have recanted it and it is unclear what Rep. Hanna meant by “retracted.”
Rep. Hanna also answered a speculative question about a potential challenge by Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi to run in 2016 for Congress. Rep. Hanna stated,
“Yes I do know Michael… I mean Anthony. I’m not aware if he will run, but I’m open to it. I welcome and admire anyone that has the guts to run for this office. A lot of people talk because everyone wants this job, but if they look at it, it’s a lot harder than they might think. But it’s not something we are focused on, we are here to help the people, and the people will pick who they want.”
As we noted in the article Assemblyman Brindisi wants to repeal the Safe Act, but why should we care?, it does appear that Brindisi may be in the early stages of establishing a run for Congress. There are also indications that Rep. Hanna has been taking action, as noted previously, to shore up his own re-election chances and to fend off challengers both from Democrats as well as Republicans and Conservatives.
When asked for a the opportunity to have a one-on-one in-depth interview, Rep. Hanna neither confirmed nor denied the request. Rep. Hanna deferred to Ms. Giameli to consider arranging a meeting. When advised that he ultimately makes the decision on an interview, Rep. Hanna stated, “We will see.”
Rep. Hanna went on to speak with the rest of the selected audience individually. At about 8:45 AM, we left the Vestal Diner. As of this article
being written, we are awaiting photos [We received photos from Ms. Gamela after publication of this document on 3/13/15] from the staff of Rep. Hanna that were taken of the event. In addition we are awaiting official response on several questions, including our request for interview.
While it is not uncommon for any elected politician to hold events for selected groups of constituents, nor for those events to be on occasion restricted from the news media, the public venue and nature of the event was odd. We thank Rep. Hanna for the access to the event, though it was highly limited in nature, as we believe the public deserves to know what actions our elected politicians are taking. This especially true when so little time has been spent by Rep. Hanna in the Southern Tier since he became the representative of the 22nd Congressional District of New York.