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Earlier this month, my colleague Eric Harris, who serves as communications director for Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.), published a perspective in The Washington Post on the volume of phone calls being made to Congress in recent weeks.

In his piece, Harris thanks “furious callers who continue to bombard” their office because “their sentiments come from a genuine place of sincerity and alarm” about the current administration. He also labels these calls as a “spontaneous grass-roots uprising.”

From where I’m sitting, “spontaneous grass-roots uprising” is a gross mischaracterization of what actually is occurring on Capitol Hill and in district offices throughout the nation, and specifically here in Wisconsin.

As communications director for Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), I’ve also spent a fair amount of time answering phone calls. Since the start of 2017, on average we have received 10 times more calls than in the previous year. The majority of calls are from individuals reading identical scripts, many of whom are not constituents of Sensenbrenner.

The terms “spontaneous” and “scripted” are in direct opposition to each other. Since it’s clear this “uprising” is scripted, I’m not sure how anyone could argue spontaneity.

I do share Harris’s sentiment that constituent calls and communications are always welcome in Sensenbrenner’s office. In fact, Sensenbrenner has made it a point to be highly accessible and responsive to his constituents, no matter their ideology, which is why he holds more in-person town hall meetings than any member of Congress — more than 100 annually.

However, much like the scripted calls we receive each day, Sensenbrenner’s town hall meetings have been inundated with planned opposition — individuals who come to meetings with scripted questions and a predetermined plan to disrupt proceedings.

This is, unfortunately, the new normal in today’s political climate. But it wasn’t always this way.

As recently as last fall, town hall meetings were still legitimate forums for constituents to discuss ideas and concerns with their representatives. In Sensenbrenner’s district, small groups of constituents would come to his town halls and speak with him directly. They often held opposing views, but they were earnest and honest. They respected the congressman’s position, and, although they disagreed, they allowed their fellow constituents to speak without interruption. People could leave knowing their voices were heard. There was no heckling, no coarse or abusive language and no personal attacks on the congressman’s character.

Now, due to the recent uprising of the national protest group, Indivisible, the days of productive, meaningful town hall meetings are obsolete. In our district and across the country, civil discourse has given way to planned protests, frequent disruptions and stunts performed to capture embarrassing footage of Republican representatives; footage the media will publicize no matter how banal.

Indivisible’s local group leaders mobilize their members to attend meetings, often recruiting the same people to follow a representative to multiple meetings. They provide prewritten questions to group members and have them ask them repeatedly at every meeting. They rehearse asking questions and follow-ups prior to meetings, and they strategize over how to best agitate representatives in the hopes they can catch something on film that can be misconstrued or taken out of context.

Additionally, local Indivisible chapters hold weekly protests at district offices nationwide, even when they know the member of Congress is not there.

Every American has the right to free speech and assembly; however, what do these tactics actually accomplish? This brand of disruptive behavior and adverse commentary further infects an already inauspicious political climate. This type of political exhibition divides families, friends and neighbors. But, most significantly, it robs others of their opportunity to have an equal say in the political process.

Thanks to Newton’s Third Law, we know that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In this case, the reaction to outlandish behavior by protest groups is constituents losing their opportunity to speak to their representatives. It is individuals being forced to wait longer to have their issues with the federal government resolved because protesters are monopolizing the time and attention of district case workers. It is an environment that separates, disparages and demeans people with diverse opinions and beliefs.

Sensenbrenner likes to say that we can disagree without being disagreeable. For many years, this was true and I believe it can be true again. Differences of opinion and spirited debate can exist without blatant disrespect, cheap personal attacks and media fanfare. As Americans, I know we can get back to that place with a little self-reflection, honesty and understanding. And with a little luck, maybe it will start before our next town hall meeting.

Nicole Tieman is communications director for U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). Sign up for our newsletter, Real Time Opinion, for a weekly roundup of the best commentary in Wisconsin, right, center and left.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner introduced the United States Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs Act of 2017, bipartisan legislation that would establish an Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs within the U.S. Department of State. 

The Arctic is an area of geo-economic interest to the United States and surrounding nations, and the growing importance of the Arctic region cannot be understated. In the coming years, the region will provide new possibilities for trade, travel, and energy development. The constant evolution of the region is creating new areas of innovation in mining and minerals, as well as ongoing opportunities for research.

However, U.S. Arctic policy does not have a clear direction because more than 20 agencies conduct work in the Arctic.  The Government Accountability Office has found that these agencies face numerous challenges due to the lack of direction and specific resources for their work. Creating the position of Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs would allow the U.S. to better coordinate policy in this region.

Congressman Sensenbrenner pressed the Obama Administration to create this position to coincide with the U.S. Chairmanship of the Arctic Council from May 2015 to May 2017.  However, the previous administration was shortsighted and failed to recognize that U.S. Arctic policy needs to be streamlined and requires someone with a direct line to the President. 

This legislation would amend the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 to establish an Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs within the State Department, in order to strengthen the U.S. relationship with the Arctic region and allow the U.S. to better coordinate Arctic policy among government agencies. 

The United States currently sits on the Arctic Council, where six of the eight member nations have already established an Ambassador for Arctic Affairs. Creating this position would allow the U.S. to work closer with the Council in furthering its important work.   

Congressman Sensenbrenner:
 “The time for an unclear and indecisive Arctic policy is over. America must recognize that other countries, including China and Russia, have very serious, and possibly adversarial, Arctic ambitions. Establishing an Ambassador at Large for Arctic Affairs would allow us to decisively address issues that face the region and consequently, the rest of the world. I encourage my colleagues to support this endeavor and the work our nation does on the Arctic Council. Lastly, I wish the Finnish Government great success as they assume the Chairmanship of the Arctic Council. Finland is a great friend and important ally of the U.S., and I look forward to working with them on these issues.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner and Gwen Moore sent a letter to Office of the United States Trade Representative Chairman William L. Busis urging him to remove certain motorcycles from the tariffs being proposed on the European Union, which would have detrimental impacts on small-and-medium sized U.S. businesses that sell such motorcycles: 

Dear Mr. Busis:

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is currently seeking comments in connection with a request from representatives of the U.S. beef industry to reinstate certain retaliatory actions against the European Union (EU) pursuant to Section 306(c) of the Trade Act of 1974, as amended.  Included in the list of products under consideration for the imposition of increased duties are motorcycles, including mopeds, over 50 cubic centimeters of engine displacement, but not over 500 cubic centimeters from the EU (HTS 87112000 and 87113000). We write today to share our concerns that imposing retaliatory duties against these types of motorcycles would harm the U.S. domestic motorcycle industry, as well as small- and medium-business dealers across the United States and in our state of Wisconsin.  

We are aware that three of the largest U.S. motorcycle manufacturers – including the Harley-Davidson Motor Company, which is headquartered and manufactures in Wisconsin – have voiced their concerns with such tariffs.  We are similarly concerned that motorcycles should not be used as leverage in a trade dispute over agricultural issues, given such an action is unlikely to be effective in resolving the underlying issue.  Furthermore, we are concerned that levying retaliatory tariffs against European motorcycles in this dispute could increase the chance of retaliatory actions against Harley-Davidson motorcycles in any future trade dispute, including disputes completely unrelated to motorcycles.

Finally, we are very concerned with the impact such tariffs could have on small- and medium-sized businesses that carry these motorcycles, including dealers located in Wisconsin, as well motorcycle consumer and enthusiast communities across the United States.  We understand such an action would threaten well over 4,000 jobs at dealerships across the United States.

While USTR has the authority and duty to impose retaliatory tariffs against countries that fail to abide by their World Trade Organization obligations, we ask that your agency give heavy weight to the views of U.S. domestic industry and affected small businesses and decline to impose increased duties on motorcycles and mopeds from Europe.

Sincerely, 

Gwen Moore
Member of Congress

F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
BROOKFIELD,WI – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner held three town hall meetings throughout Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District this past weekend, meeting with constituents of all political ideology in Germantown, Brookfield, and Hartford. Despite repeated calls for civility, a number of meetings were marred by disruption and antagonistic antics from some participants. 
        

Congressman Sensenbrenner holds more than 100 such events annually. Since the beginning of the year, he has held more than 40 meetings in communities throughout Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District, and although there has been a significant increase in attendance in recent weeks, for the most part, these gatherings have been civil, despite political and policy differences.
 
However, the mutual respect that has helped make these events successful seems to be deteriorating thanks to crowds of agitators, who rather than participating to discuss legitimate concerns, instead used disorderly tactics which brought meetings to a halt on several occasions. There is a recurring pattern of the same attendees showing up at each meeting to ask the same questions they already posed at previous town halls. It’s clear they are well-aware of the Congressman’s position on the issues, and unfortunately their repeated questions rob others in attendance of their opportunity to have their questions answered.
 
Coarse tactics, such as yelling “shut up” at the Congressman while he responded to questions, and exaggerated and needlessly loud yawning during his answers forced repeated pauses during meetings and took time away from other constituents hoping to speak to the Congressman. They transformed the atmosphere of the room into one more akin to a middle school classroom than that of a town hall meeting.
 
These tactics have been seen at other Republican town hall meetings nationwide, but have not been as intense at Congressman Sensenbrenner’s meetings until recently. They come on the heels of weeks of meetings that operated under feelings of general respect, where many constituents with opposing viewpoints took time to thank the Congressman for being accessible, even though they disagreed with him on policy matters.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Over the years, there have been contentious national issues that brought passionate constituents to my meetings, but I have rarely seen the type of blatant disruption that I saw this past weekend. I have always run my meetings on the basis of mutual respect, and everyone who openly broke that did a great disservice to their fellow constituents who came to honestly discuss an issue with me. We can disagree without being disagreeable; this is not how democracy is supposed to work.” 
 
Many of the agitators at the past weekend’s town hall meetings belong to a national protest group, whose core mission is to resist the Republican agenda and disrupt civil discourse at Republican town hall meetings throughout the country.
 
Despite these efforts, Congressman Sensenbrenner has continued to speak directly to his constituents at town hall meetings. He will hold six more town hall meetings this month in the communities of West Bend, West Allis, Richfield, Newburg, Kewaskum, and Addison. For information on these, and other upcoming meetings, you can visit his official website at http://sensenbrenner.house.gov/contact
Since I was elected to Congress, I have been accessible to my constituents through a variety of mediums. I hold more than 100 in-person town hall meetings and office hours annually. My Brookfield and Washington, D.C. staff field many calls each day, and every constituent who would like individual responses to specific questions submitted by phone, email, or standard mail receive one in a timely manner.

Lively conversations also occur on my social media accounts, which are monitored each day. Questions, comments, and opinions are passed along to me and I take them into account as I review and introduce legislation. Although I don’t respond directly on social media, it’s important for my constituents to know that I see their post.

In that spirit, I have compiled a sample of posts from the past few weeks and addressed them below. Thank you to every constituent who takes the time to contact my office and/or speak to me directly at any of my many town hall meetings and office hour events. I look forward to continued discussions on important legislation and issues that affect the people of our communities and our nation.


“@JimPressOffice but you cannot call Sensenbrenner. Constituents cannot reach him.”
Posted on Twitter March 6, 2017 

My Brookfield and Washington, D.C. staffs answer phone calls from 8am to 5pm Monday through Friday. Maybe I’m “old school,” but I want constituents to speak to a live person when they reach out to my offices. In fact, we do not utilize a voicemail system for this very reason. I think a two-way dialogue is a much more effective way to communicate. Sometimes all of the incoming lines are busy and a caller might hear a busy signal. When this happens, I encourage you to hang up and try again.

Additionally, I am easily accessible by email and standard mail, as well as my many in-person town hall meetings. Or, you are always welcome to visit my Brookfield office to leave your comments.

“Could you hold the majority of your meetings after working hours so that more people can attend?” 

Posted on Facebook March 3, 2017 

The majority of town hall meetings are held on Saturday and Sundays – often two on Saturdays at 9am and 1pm, and one on Sunday at 1pm. On occasion, such as this upcoming week, I will also host a town hall meeting on a Monday night at 7pm (March 13 in Wauwatosa.)

In addition to town hall meetings, I hold public office hours. These are often on Fridays in smaller communities throughout the district. They provide constituents extra opportunities to speak with me directly if they are unable to make a town hall meeting in their area.

“You need to hold meetings in larger venues. Your constituents can’t get in.”
Posted on Twitter February 27, 2017

My town hall meeting schedule is often set months ahead of time, allowing for the meetings to be publicized and worked around my duties in Washington. We work with the U.S. Capitol Police and local law enforcement to determine the safest venues for all participants. All meetings are held in public buildings, and we defer to law enforcement to advise us about safety. Additionally, larger venues, such as middle schools or high schools, are not easily secured and are typically booked with student activities.

I also don’t believe that tax dollars should be expended to secure venues, so if a facility requires a fee, we will not schedule our meeting there. I’ve been doing these meetings for 38 years and our venues have been more than adequate for the most part. Given the new challenges we are experiencing with larger crowds, I think we are doing a good job of addressing all the factors that go into a location selection.

“I do appreciate you com[ing] out to listen, does it ever make you change your mind on policy matters?”

Posted on Facebook February 22, 2017 

I listen to different viewpoints from constituents and take them into consideration when voting for legislation. One recent and relevant example of this is my support for allowing individuals aged 26 and under to remain on their parents’ health insurance and ensuring individuals with pre-existing conditions are not barred from coverage. Initially, I did not support this provision, but after hearing the personal stories of many of my constituents, I changed my position. 

When it comes to legislation I introduce, I know it is most effective to reach across the aisle and work with a Democratic colleague to ensure all ideas and solutions to problems are considered. The majority of the time, a piece of legislation cannot become law without bipartisan support, and I believe that’s the best way to legislate on behalf of my constituents and the American people.

“Please hold [town halls] more often.”
Posted on Facebook February 12, 2017

I hold more than 100 public meetings annually. In fact, I hold more in-person meetings than any Member of Congress. All my upcoming meetings are posted on my official website, and I encourage anyone who wishes to speak to me directly to attend any of my upcoming events.
 
“What’s the point in posting a statement on FB if you can’t be bothered to respond to comments?”
Posted on Facebook February 5, 2017 

Facebook, Twitter, and other social media avenues are a great way to share information, and quickly and efficiently inform my constituents about the work I’m doing on their behalf. However, I don’t believe it would be an effective use of taxpayer dollars for me to watch social media accounts all day, every day. 

That’s why members of my staff diligently monitor conversations and comments on my social media accounts and pass along productive comments and opinions. I encourage every constituent who wishes to receive a response from me to reach out by phone, email, or standard mail, or attend one of my many in-person town hall meetings and office hours. 

“Whitewater is not on the list [of town hall meetings], even though we are in your district. I guess our voice doesn’t matter.”

Posted on Facebook January 22, 2017 

The views and concerns of all my constituents matter, and I make it a point to visit communities in every part of my district. I will be hosting a town hall meeting in Whitewater in my upcoming round of meetings in April, and I have held various meetings in neighboring communities in order to provide a forum for constituents in that area of my district. 

In addition to my many in-person meetings, I am easily accessible by phone, email, and standard mail.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner reintroduced H.R. 1424, bipartisan legislation that would make the Ice Age Trail, which spans most of the state of Wisconsin, a unit of the National Parks System. 

The Ice Age Trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails. It is one of Wisconsin tourism and travel industry’s biggest draws. More than 1 million people from across the country use the Ice Age Trail each year, and a 2012 study by the University of Wisconsin – Whitewater quantified the economic impact of the Trail at more than $113 annually.

If passed, this legislation would provide parity in the resources available to the trail for management and promotion, all within the existing National Park Service budget. Without unit status, the Ice Age Trail does not have equal participation in National Park Service funding.

The designation as a unit is an administrative decision made by the National Park Service that was applied inconsistently as the National Scenic Trails were established. The National Park Service has recognized that there is no significant difference between the unit and non-unit trails that would merit such distinction. However, despite Congressional pressure, they have not resolved the disparity.

In addition to Wisconsin’s Ice Age Trail, this legislation would also designate the North Country and New England National Scenic Trails as units under the National Park Service. Co-sponsors of this bill include Wisconsin Representatives Glenn Grothman, Ron Kind, and Gwen Moore. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The Ice Age Trail not only provides beauty and recreational opportunities for those who use it, but it also is essential to Wisconsin’s economy and tourism industry. This bipartisan legislation would ensure that it is preserved and maintained under the National Parks Service at no additional cost to the taxpayers.”
 
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner reintroduced H.R. 1424 on March 8, bipartisan legislation that would make the Ice Age Trail, which spans most of the state of Wisconsin, a unit of the National Parks System, according to a news release from the congressman's office.

The Ice Age Trail is one of only eleven National Scenic Trails. It is one of the Wisconsin tourism and travel industry’s biggest draws. More than 1 million people from across the country use the Ice Age Trail each year, and a 2012 study by the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater quantified the economic impact of the Trail at more than $113 annually, according to the release.

If passed, this legislation would provide parity in the resources available to the trail for management and promotion, all within the National Park Service budget. Without unit status, the Ice Age Trail does not have equal participation in National Park Service funding.

You can view this article online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – After another successful weekend of town hall meetings throughout Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District, Congressman Sensenbrenner continues to be recognized for the frequency in which he holds town hall meetings. In fact, here’s what people are saying about Congressman Sensenbrenner and his ambitious town hall schedule…


Sensenbrenner not afraid of town hall meetings– WISN
“Wisconsin Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner has never been afraid of a debate."

“[Sensenbrenner] is undeterred by the tough questions he’s getting these days…”

“Representative Sensenbrenner says that no matter how heated people may get, he will keep being accountable to the voters.”

Wyden, Sensenbrenner lead February town halls– The Hill
“Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) held 16 town hall meetings last month, more than any other member of Congress. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) led the House with 12 events, according to data collected by the independent site Legistorm."

GOP lawmakers lead way in holding town halls – The Hill
“The 10 lawmakers who have held the most in-person town hall meetings over the last two years are all Republicans. Since the beginning of the 114th Congress in 2015, four Republicans – Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (Wis.), Sens. Mike Crapo (Idaho) and Jerry Moran (Kan.) and former Rep. Tim Huelskamp (Kan.) – held more than 100 in-person town hall meetings.” 

U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner faces opposition at town hall gathering– Wisconsin State Journal
“Many Republican members of Congress have avoided town hall meetings since Trump’s election but Sensenbrenner has a history of holding town halls – he said he has averaged about 100 every year since taking office.”

Jim Sensenbrenner holds feisty town hall – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“Some politicians are wary of holding contentious town hall meetings. But not U.S. Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the dean of the Wisconsin delegation.”

Wisconsin Rep. Sensenbrenner On Not Shying Away From Town Halls –
NPR
“So members of Congress have skipped or canceled planned meetings but not Representative Jim Sensenbrenner… He’s responsible for a quarter of all town halls held by the 289 Republicans in Congress this term.”

“Making Sense of Washington: Congressman’s town hall events in Sussex, Lannon get contentious –
Northwest NOW
“U.S. Rep James Sensenbrenner (R-Menomonee Falls) is no rookie when it comes to town hall meetings; i
n fact, he has held more in-person meetings than any member of Congress with more than 525 town hall events since 2013.”
“Since the start of the year alone, he’s already held nearly 40.”

Rep. Sensenbrenner holds well-attended Lake Mills Town Hall – WKOW
“Even as some lawmakers are skipping or canceling town halls, Republican Representative Jim Sensenbrenner spent Saturday afternoon with people in Jefferson County at the Lake Mills City Hall.”

A list of upcoming meetings is available on Congressman Sensenbrenner’s official website.