A drive-by sliming, courtesy of the N&O and Politico ….

It is astounding how much more press coverage and scrutiny the current occupant of the 2nd congressional district seat, Renee Ellmers (R), is getting than her predecessor, Bob (Who are you?) Etheridge (D) did.

( I am SURE it could not have anything to do with those letters in parentheses next to each of their last names. )

Check out the N&O’s latest swipe at Ellmers:

Report: Ellmers at paid event, not open meetings

Submitted by lbonner on 2011-08-17 11:39

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers is one of the subjects of a Politico article about House members forsaking open town hall meetings during the recess, but making appearances where people have to pay to attend.

In the article, her spokesman Tom Doheny said Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn, is holding tele-town halls.

Boy, Ms. Bonner sure does make this sound sinister.  By reading this, one would think Mrs. Ellmers is shaking down lobbyists for thousands of dollars in order to get a few minutes of her time.   (The comments on the N&O web site about this posting confirm that more people would share my suspicions.)

But, if you click on the link in this blurb to The Politico story, you find another link to a Fayetteville Observer story, which gives details of the Ellmers event which has Ms. Bonner so horrified:

U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers, a Republican from Harnett County, is scheduled to speak Aug. 24 at 11 a.m. at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees monthly meeting at the the Holiday Inn Bordeaux & Conference Center, 1707 Owen Drive. The event is open to the public. Attendees must be seated by 10:45 a.m. and must purchase a $13 lunch buffet. For information, call Jeanette Webster at 867-9445 or Etta Rouse at 485-6886.

Wow.  The congresswoman is the scheduled speaker at the NARFE chapter’s monthly meeting.  It’s open to the public, and publicized with a press release sent to the local paper.  Two phone numbers are provided if you want to make reservations to attend.  The “paid” part involves shelling out $13 for lunch.

(I can see how that would upset the liberals in the newsrooms at The Politico and The N&O.  Those folks are such big fans of the “free lunch.”  Besides, I thought most major media organizations had ethics rules in place barring reporters from accepting free food from people they are covering.  So, what is the problem here?) 

You have to give Politico a little more credit than our state’s “flagship” paper.  The DC operation actually did a little research and READ The Fayetteville Observer — which is published about an hour’s drive away from the N&O’s offices.

You have to give major kudos to blogger Laura Leslie, at WRAL-TV, for questioning the liberal spin on this whole thing:

Congresswoman Renee Ellmers’ spokesman is taking issue with a Politico article that blasts Ellmers for “refusing to hold free, open town hall meetings for constituents” this month, but appearing at an event with an entry fee.

The story accuses Ellmers and fellow GOP Reps. Paul Ryan, Ben Quayle and Lou Barletta of trying avoid open public meetings that might be attended by angry constituents, preferring to appear only at events with an entry fee or other restrictions on access.

The report was quickly circulated by Democratic operatives in NC.

Spokesman Tom Doheny confirms Ellmers has no town hall meetings scheduled for August. But she will speak to the monthly meeting of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees in Fayetteville on Aug. 24th. Attendees are required to pay for a $13 lunch buffet.

“She was invited to speak to the group,” Doheny said. “She’s a guest speaker. The reason they’re charging an entrance fee is because they’re serving lunch. We wish they weren’t charging an entrance fee, but it’s their event.” 

Doheny said Ellmers had a town hall meeting in late spring, and is “planning on having a bunch” more soon. “She’s planning on having them in the fall, after people get back from vacations, so we can get the biggest bang for the buck.”

In the meantime, he said, Ellmers has been holding “tele-town halls,” conference calls with constituents. “We had one August 2nd, the day after the vote on the debt ceiling. The [invitation] call went out to 16,400 people. We had 5,000 people on the tele-town.”

“We’re trying to reach the largest amount of people possible,” Doheny said. “If we did a public town hall, we’d be lucky to get a couple hundred people at most. People really like it. They don’t have to drive. It’s right in their living room.”

The Politico report makes “tele-town halls” sound unusual, but they’re not. In fact, in 2008, anotherPolitico story chronicled the calls’ rising popularity among congressmembers.

I sincerely hope that The state Democratic Party follows the law and properly identifies these stories from The Politico and The N&O as in-kind contributions.