Memo to Castor: dissing the constituents you represent won’t help change the tone of debate
By Chris Ingram
In the wake of the Arizona shootings last week, politicians from across the country have called for changing the tone of politics.
But if members of Congress (and other political leaders) want to change the culture of public debate, they need to look in the mirror first. Their own behavior helps foster the bad behavior from some of their constituents.
Consider Kathy Castor.
Mrs. Castor represents much of Hillsborough County and the City of Tampa in Congress. She’s the ninth most liberal member of Congress according to the National Journal.
Last year during the healthcare debate, Rep. Castor made national news when fighting broke out at her healthcare town hall meeting. Passions erupted when those who didn’t share Castor’s views for Obamacare were denied a seat at the forum.
The whole affair could have been avoided had Rep. Castor’s office acted in a fair manner by allowing those with divergent views to rightfully attend the public meeting she was hosting.
Rep. Castor must be a slow learner because her penchant for dissing her constituents hasn’t improved much since last year.
Last week Mrs. Castor’s office e-mailed me the following reply:
January 6, 2011
As we come to an end of the 111th Congress I want to thank you for keeping me informed of your priorities. It is important for me to hear from you so that I am able to represent you in Washington.
As you know, the 111th Congress was a productive and historical Congress. We passed comprehensive health care legislation, sweeping financial regulatory legislation including necessary consumer protections, increased funding for Veteran Affairs, and tax cuts for families, students, and small business owners. I am proud to have worked on legislation important to the Tampa Bay families and businesses.
Although we have made significant progress over the last two years, and in my tenure in Congress, we are still facing considerable challenges. We are continuing to deal with high unemployment, widespread foreclosures, and the devastating effects of the BP oil disaster. I am committed to addressing these challenges head on in the 112th Congress.
I have already introduced legislation to ensure that the bulk of fines and penalties owed by BP will be devoted to the economic and environmental recovery of the Gulf Coast. My bill H.R.6434, the Gulf of Mexico Economic and Environmental Restoration Act of 2010 would implement many of the suggestions tendered to me by my neighbors in Town Hall meetings and which were included as recommendations in the Report by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus entitled America’s Gulf Coast – A Long Term Recovery Plan. The fines and penalties to be paid by BP for violations of the Clean Water Act cannot under current law be specifically devoted to recovery of the Gulf unless and until Congress provides the direction that my bill does.
The Gulf of Mexico is our most vital economic engine and environmental jewel. The economic harm and pollution caused by BP must be repaired using the fines and penalties BP will pay. Taxpayers cannot be left on the hook for one dime of BP’s damage. We must protect and expand our jobs, our tourism economy and our fishing industry.
The oil disaster has not only had a devastating effect on our environment, but it has also caused interruption to the improvement of our troubled economy. Although it will take time for our economy to improve, I am working hard to ensure Congress works to rebuild by retaining American jobs, lowering taxes for the middle-class and small businesses, as well as lowering overall government spending. I voted for PAYGO, which ensures financial expenditures are used on funds that are currently available rather than borrowed. I believe we need to reign (sic) in spending as a part of our economic recovery.
I voted for Wall Street reform and have worked for its consumer protections. Wall Street reform creates a new, independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency that is dedicated to protecting homeowners and small businesses, not Wall Street banks. I voted against the Wall Street bailout (TARP) in 2008 because it did not address the root causes of the economic crisis – help for our community, not Wall Street – or provide enough accountability. It gave money and attention to help Wall Street rather than the hard-working, middle-class families across America and the Tampa Bay area.
The 111th Congress also passed landmark health care reform that will hold insurance companies accountable and make health coverage honest and dependable. No bill is perfect and we will continue to work to improve on this historic bill. However, we have already seen some significant improvements as a result of the bills consumer protections that are now in place: health insurance companies must allow children to stay on their parent’s health insurance plan until their 26th birthday, health insurance companies are no longer allowed to deny children health insurance due to a “pre-existing condition”, seniors receive a rebate for the “doughnut hole” – personal expenditures that arise from the Medicare part D coverage – and the end of rescission, a common practice of the insurance industry dropping patients once they get sick. These meaningful reforms and curbs on the powerful insurance companies provide specific protections and consumer benefits for Tampa Bay area families who have been doing the right thing by paying their premiums and co-pays even as those premiums have risen astronomically.
Our returning soldiers, veterans and their families have sacrificed so much to ensure the safety of our country, and they deserve the best benefits available. This is why I have championed legislation that provides them with quality health care, access to needed services, first-rate education benefits, and fair compensation.
I was happy to champion the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act, which expands the educational benefits for military veterans who have served since September 11, 2001. Most importantly, the act includes paying for 100% of the cost of a public, four-year undergraduate education for all qualified veterans who have served at least 3 years on active duty since September 11, 2001.
As we move forward into the 112th Congress I will continue to support legislation that is important to our community. I will concentrate on bringing jobs to Tampa and improving our economic situation. Further benefits and protections for our veterans and their family’s (sic) and I will continue to fight to secure that the BP funds go to compensate for the substantial damage they caused to our small business owners, tourism and fishing industries and restoration of our Gulf.
Thank you for taking the time to contact me. I appreciate you sharing your opinions with me and I will continue to keep your views in mind as we move forward into the 112th Congress.
Member of Congress
Thank you Mrs. Castor for the taxpayer funded propaganda from your office. This looks more like a campaign mailing than a response to a constituent about a specific matter. Am I missing something, or is there absolutely no mention of Odyssey Marine Exploration and the deplorable acts of the Obama administration as it relates to that company? Veterans Affairs, the BP oil spill, and your liberal ideas about how to improve the economy may be important to you, but they have nothing to do with the issue which I wrote about and which you failed to even tacitly acknowledge.
With regard to the Arizona tragedy, Castor was quoted in today’s Tampa Tribune as saying, “If we want to prevent this from happening again, we’ve got to tone down the rhetoric.”
Agreed, Mrs. Castor; and regardless of toned down rhetoric or not, there is no place and no excuse for violence in our political system.
But Rep. Castor, when you consider changing the political environment, next time go look in the mirror. You’re a big part of the problem the way you dismiss the legitimate interests of your constituents.
Shame on you.
But violent responses should be avoided. We’ve got elections (and redistricting) coming in less than two years. That’s how we’ll get rid of arrogant members of Congress like you.
That is the American way, not with guns.
Side note: I copied my letter to Castor to Sen. Bill Nelson and Rep. Gus Bilirakis. A legislative aide to Rep. Bilirakis called me last week to inform me they are aware of and are monitoring the situation with Odyssey. Kudos to Bilirakis’ office for having the decency to respond to my letter with substance – and I’m not even his constituent, I’m “represented” by Kathy Castor. I have yet to hear from Sen. Nelson’s office.
Chris Ingram is the president and founder of 411 Communications a corporate and political communications firm, and publisher of Irreverent View. Ingram is a frequent pundit on Fox News and CNN, and has written opinion columns for the Washington Times, UPI, and National Review online. He is the Republican political analyst for Bay News 9, the only 24 hour all news channel in Florida’s largest media market. The opinions expressed here are those of author and do not represent the views of Bay News 9. E-mail him at: Chris@IrreverentView.com.
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