At a “State of the Nation” presentation in Reedsburg back in August, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson told a constituent he does “orders of magnitude” more constituent outreach than his predecessor, Russ Feingold. You may remember Russ Feingold famously held a face-to-face town hall meeting with constituents in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties during each year he held office, while Sen. Johnson has held just 34 telephone conference calls during his first four full years in office.
Sauk County Sup. John Dietz asked Johnson to consider adopting a policy of the man he replaced. Russ Feingold held listening sessions in each of the state’s 72 counties every year and Dietz said Johnson should, too.
“We see you on TV all the time but where the work gets done is in a room like this,” Dietz said.
Johnson said he recently finished his 34th telephone town-hall meeting in which more than 400,000 Wisconsin residents have participated, expanding his reach by “orders of magnitude” beyond the numbers Feingold achieved in his face-to-face meetings.
As Jud Lounsbury notes over at Uppity Wisconsin, Sen. Johnson’s claim he does “orders of magnitude” more constituent outreach than Russ Feingold is absolutely absurd.
There are three aspects of this claim that beg ridicule: 1) That 400,000 Wisconsin residents have participated in his telephone calls; 2) That these events are actually “town hall meetings.” If we humor the Senator and accept the 400,000 number, that would mean approximately 12,000 people are calling in to each of his 34 conference calls– that’s not a “town hall meeting,” that’s thousands of people listening to Johnson pontificate. 3) That the reach of his telephone town hall meetings is “orders of magnitude” larger than what Feingold acheived via his face-to face listening sessions– assuming the minimum of Johnson claim, two orders of magnitude would mean that he has done 100 times more constituent outreach than what Feingold acheived over the same time.
One hundred times more?
Putting aside the absurdity of comparing these glorified phone messages to a face-to-face Feingold listening session, it is simply nonsense to suggest that Feingold only met with a handful of people every year. Let’s do the math: Approximately 50 people attended each of Feingold’s 72 listening sessions every year, or about 3,600 every year. And if we figure that Johnson has been in the Senate for four years, that would mean that if Feingold were still in the Senate, he would have given 14,400 constituents the opportunity to personally ask their Senator a question or give him an earful.
And these were just Feingold’s listening sessions. Feingold also regularly attended community functions, met with constituent groups, and was someone you were likely to run into at county fairs and dairy breakfasts.
The same simply cannot be said for Ron Johnson, who spends more time on special interest junkets and meeting with billionaires than he spends on his “constituent outreach.”
Johnson claiming to be a hundred times better than Feingold at constituent outreach is like Anchorage claiming to be a hundred times warmer than Miami or Jay Leno claiming to be hundred times funnier than Johnny Carson: Some things are just self-evident and constituent outreach is one of them.
I don’t know about you, but 2016 can’t come soon enough for me, because Ron Johnson is an embarrassment to our state.