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GOP Clashes Over Publicizing Schedules

Several House Republicans are balking at a request by their leadership to offer up a copy of their August schedules for a GOP Conference online database.

“My constituents know how to find me,” Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said. “I’m listed in the phone book.”

GOP leaders have asked Members to submit their schedules as part of their “America Speaking Out” agenda project, but some Republicans said doing so would only create opportunities for their opponents to embarrass them.

Rep. John Campbell said Thursday that his recess calendar wasn’t finalized yet and that he had no plans to give the Conference a copy even when it is completed.

“I just don’t know why there needs to be a national advertisement of everything I’m doing,” the California Republican said.

Likewise, Rep. Mike Simpson said he would not be submitting his schedule to leadership either, in part because he felt it was not “the Conference’s business.”

“I do my schedule, and I do it according to my district and what I need to do. I don’t necessarily want it published,” the Idaho Republican said. “If I was going out and had a tough re-election and was asking the Conference and the [National Republican Congressional Committee] to help me ... then maybe they have the right to say, ‘OK, what are you doing in August?’ but I’m not asking them for a dime.”

And Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking member on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he isn’t giving up his schedule either. The California Republican said he plans to spend several days in August “driving down Route 66 in his RV” to visit different parts of the country. Issa said of the leaders’ schedule request: “It was whipped; there were a lot of noes.”

Over the past few months, Republican leaders encouraged Members to hold town halls under their America Speaking Out initiative to gather ideas for a new GOP agenda.

In previous recess periods, Republican leadership staff publicized certain Members’ town halls by sending press releases featuring local press clips or videos from individual events.

But this August marks the first time that the party has tried to cull information from the entire Republican Conference.

Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Chief Deputy Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), said: “House Republicans will be visible and engaged with their constituents during August at various events, including town halls. This will offer a strong contrast with House Democrats, who are choosing to duck from their constituents rather than listen and engage with them.”

In a series of internal e-mails obtained by Roll Call, GOP leadership staff attempted to explain what exactly would be done with the schedule information.

In a July 22 e-mail to Republican staff, the GOP Conference asked lawmakers to submit a list of their August events, such as town hall meetings and job fairs, via the House GOP’s intranet so that they could be compiled in one place.

“You will be asked general information about the event, and whether you are ok with it being on a public calendar or would rather have the information be kept internal,” the e-mail said. “If we have not heard from someone in your office, we will be reaching next week out to your boss personally.”

In a second e-mail, dated July 28, Conference staff said they had received “hundreds of public events” from Members and detailed how each event would be added to an online public map — but only after the events took place.

“Every Monday we will update the calendar with all the events that happened the week prior,” the e-mail said. “This map will build over the 6 weeks and assist our narrative that House Republicans are listening to the concerns of Americans while the Democrats hide from their constituents.”

The e-mail again assured Members that the activities would not be made public without the their consent and encouraged them to contact the Conference with any concerns. As of late last week, Buck said Members had offered up a list of about 300 scheduled events.

Still, some Members aren’t happy.

“Yeah right. Once you give it over, it’s available somewhere,” Simpson said.

After a series of rowdy town halls last August, House Republicans have accused Democrats of “hiding” in their districts instead of engaging the public. House Democrats have furiously denied this charge and pointed to hundreds of constituent meetings that their Members have held in recent months.

One Republican Member said that beyond announcing events, creating a map of town halls could misrepresent the amount of work that lawmakers did over the break because private events or informal meetings would not show up.

This lawmaker said, “It wasn’t very well-thought-out.”

But even with the grumbling, not all Republicans are worried about publicizing their schedules.

“I gave them my schedule. I’m not hiding from anybody,” Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) said. “I had a rat show up one time with people wearing cheese hats. It’s America.”

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