Staff Editorials

Blum's constituents deserve an explanation

U.S. Rep. Rod Blum pauses as people shout during his town hall at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May. 9, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)
U.S. Rep. Rod Blum pauses as people shout during his town hall at Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, May. 9, 2017. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

By any measure U.S. Rep. Rod Blum has had a difficult week. He has only himself to blame.

Problems began percolating months ago when Iowans noticed Blum was not scheduling public meetings during Congressional recesses. Hundreds picketed his offices, wrote letters and called. In response, Blum said “real Americans” didn’t care about public meetings.

This month, however, Blum altered course and scheduled four in-person, in-district town hall events. The announcement could have and should have ended controversy, but Blum instituted some unusual stipulations. In order to limit the audience to residents of the 1st District, Blum required those wanting to attend to submit personal information in advance and present photo IDs at the door.

The decision broke with a long-standing state tradition of fully open public meetings — a tradition U.S. Sens. Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst honored earlier this year — and left many Iowans wondering about Blum’s reasons for the change.

KCRG-TV9 reporter Josh Scheinblum tried to get answers Monday during a prearranged interview with Blum. But just four questions into the conversation, Blum removed his microphone, shouted about being “badgered” and walked off.

It was an embarrassing spectacle made worse by the fact that children from Dubuque’s Dream Center — standing by Blum’s side during the interview at his request — were witnesses to the congressman’s loss of composure.

The offending question was one Blum should have anticipated — in fact, it already has been asked many times over by his constituents and columnists on these very pages. More than that, it was a relevant question meant to square Blum’s statements and his actions.

If campaign donors from outside the congressman’s district aren’t who he represents, and therefore are not welcome at his public events, would Blum “still take donations from a Republican in Iowa City?” the television reporter asked.

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There should be some logic to his congressman’s reasoning. Blum should respect his constituents enough to explain it.

Instead Iowa became the national punch line: Home of the Congressman who ran away.

• Comments: (319) 398-8469; editorial@thegazette.com

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