U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-Minnesota) voted with other Republicans last week to block Congress from having a look at Donald Trump’s tax returns.
So far Trump has kept his financial profile strictly secret, though every presidential nominee since the 1970s has presented the information to the public. The rationale behind this tradition is that the president’s business dealings and debts could illuminate how his public policies benefit his private interests.
Paulsen sits on the Ways and Means committee, which has the right to invoke a rule that would force Trump to reveal his long-awaited tax returns. When the issue came to a vote, Paulsen joined 22 other Republicans in a party-line vote to take a pass.
City Pages asked Paulsen for his reasoning. But despite multiple calls, spokesman Andrew Johnson says the congressman has been “unavailable” the past three days.
Paulsen also appears to be hiding from his constituents. The congressman, who represents the western suburbs and parts of Hennepin and Carver counties, hasn’t held an in-person town hall meeting in more than six years.
Town halls are an opportunity for politicians to report back to their constituents about what they’ve been up to, and to hear about constituents' interests.
Instead, Paulsen reportedly uses robo calls to alert random voters that they’ve been chosen to talk to him. The number appears as “private caller,” and the ensuing conversation is screened. The constituent can ask Paulsen a question, but the constituent does not get to respond or follow up for clarification. Transcripts of these calls are not available for the public to review.
Kelly Guncheon, who lives in Paulsen’s district, decided to organize a town hall for the congressman. He says he and his wife were discussing their representative’s recent voting record – which includes repealing the Affordable Care Act with no replacement – and wishing they could talk to him when they came up with the idea.
Called the “With or Without Him” town hall, it would be held Thursday night at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Plymouth. Hundreds are expected to attend. Paulsen need only show up.
Paulsen’s office declined the invitation, Guncheon says, after he called every day for the past three weeks.
As both houses of Congress went on recess, Democratic activists across the nation have been putting the heat on Republican representatives to face them in town halls, echoing the same tactics Tea Partiers used six years ago.
Guncheon says he and his wife are both Independents, with no affiliation to the Democratic Party.
“If he shows up, we want to have an opportunity to discuss his voting record and his rationale for it,” Guncheon says. “We’re concerned about them and we want to know what he’s thinking. If he’s not talking to us, what is he basing his positions on?”
If Paulsen doesn’t show, Guncheon says the town hall will go on anyway in order to show the congressman that “town hall meetings are not the boogeyman that Republicans seem to think they are.
“There have been incidents of raucous and rowdy behavior, but our goal is to show that we can have a civil meeting where there’s no bad behavior, no shouting down people, and we wanna show that can be done, because we’re all adults.”
Rep. Tom Emmer is the only Minnesota Republican congressman to brave a town hall so far. His meeting on Wednesday night was well attended, and though some monents were tense, everyone was civil.