January 22, 2018

Matheson, the man afraid of his constituents?

Alone among the Utah congressional delegation, Congressman Jim Matheson stopped holding town halls in 2007, over five years  ago. What is he afraid of?


As children head back to school and leaves begin to change, Members of Congress are coming to the end of the August recess and preparing to return to Washington, D.C. They’ve spent the last month visiting with family, reconnecting with life outside the Beltway, explaining their votes to constituents, and listening as constituents talk.

Except for Congressman Jim Matheson.  Congressman Stewart hosted a hefty seven town hall meetings and Congressman Chaffetz meets with constituents in Holladay and Castle Dale. Even Senator Lee has held five town halls, and Congressman Rob Bishop’s town halls are some of the most entertaining to attend, not to mention regularly well attended. And though Senator Orrin Hatch didn’t have any town halls scheduled this year, he spent an enormous amount of time meeting with constituents all through 2012 as he fought to earn reelection.

Meanwhile, Matheson stopped holding town halls in 2007, over five years and two and a half terms ago. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Matheson didn’t think it was worth his time:

Democrat Matheson stopped holding regular town hall meetings in 2007, saying too few attended and that alternative telephone town halls reach more people more effectively.

Effective, and cheaper, according to the Deseret News:

Matheson stopped holding traditional town hall meetings [in 2007], saying it was expensive to send postcards to homes to advertise them and only a handful of people usually would attend. He has been holding telephone town hall meetings instead.

Never mind that Congressional franking privileges allow Matheson to send regular correspondence to his constituents at tax payer expense. He’s just using that expense to talk at constituents, not meet with and listen to them in town halls.  Instead, he conducts what amounts to a massive phone call, a “tele-town hall.”

Telephone town halls reach 40,000 people, his spokesman said.

A member of the “People’s House,” Matheson doesn’t spend a ton of time meeting with constituents, except in controlled environments. His site shows pictures of him on the Trax “inspecting” it,” visiting with American servicemen, reading to elementary school children, volunteering with “Meals on Wheels,” and visiting the Utah Department of Health Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Never with groups larger than six or seven people.

It’s more reminiscent of Kim Jong Il’s “Looking at things” than a man of the people listening to constituents.

Contrast that with Senator Lee, who has arguably had a controversial first three years of a six-year term, and faced over three hundred constituents in a town hall shortly after he was accused of trying to shut down the federal government over Obamacare. You don’t have to agree with Lee’s positions to agree that he’s willing to face constituents and answer their questions, even when he doesn’t control the environment.

Matheson is a nice guy and fortunately he has little in common with the former North Korean dictator. But one thing he does not have in common with the other members of Utah’s congressional delegation is a willingness to face his constituents and answer for his votes.  He owes it to those who have selected him as a representative from Utah for a decade to meet with them in public and answer their questions. At a time when Congress faces the lowest approval in three decades, it’s the very least he could do to show Utahns that their government cares about what they think.


About Daniel Burton

Daniel Burton lives in Salt Lake County, Utah, where he practices law by day and everything else by night. You can follow him on his blog PubliusOnline.com where he muses on politics, the law, books and ideas. He is active on social media, Republican politics, and has been named to PoliticIt’s list of the “Top-50 Utah Political Opinion Leaders” on Twitter. You can reach him directly at dan.burton@gmail.com

  • Have you seen my Congressman? Name: James Matheson. Last seen 2007. Maybe in Beltway area.

    • I’m beginning to sense some sarcasm in your voice, Christian… 😉

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