116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - Sen. Chuck Grassley's 'Full Grassley” is coming up short, according to a liberal interest group that hopes to see the Iowa Republican's 36-year senatorial career end.
Grassley, who is seeking a seventh term, boasts on his Senate website, http://www.grassley.senate.gov, that he 'makes it a top priority to meet with as many Iowans as possible.”
'Just finished the ‘full Grassley' tour of 99 county meetings for 34th yr in row,” he tweeted in September 2014.
But Progress Iowa said in a report the 'Full Grassley” isn't as full as he leads Iowans to believe - that many of his meetings are private.
The group's research shows Grassley hasn't had an open-to-the-public meeting in Linn or Johnson counties in the last six years.
'Sen. Grassley has blurred the line between public and private events when discussing them,” according to Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa.
Grassley spokeswoman Beth Levine defended the mix of formats as allowing the senator to meet with Iowans 'where they work, where they live, where they worship, where they study-in their own communities.”
Political meetings are not counted as town-hall meetings, she said.
The 'hallmark of every meeting (is) a lengthy Q&A where Grassley takes questions and comments on any subject, letting the audience set the agenda,” Levine said.
But not all formats allow that sort of free-flowing discussion, said Brett Nilles of Cedar Rapids, a board member at Horizons: A Family Service Alliance. In May, Grassley met with about 50 employees and board members of the agency. Discussion ranged from student debt to minimum wage to whistleblowers to protecting crime victim assistance funds.
Nilles, who is chairman of the Linn County Democratic Party, agreed with Progress Iowa that the 'Full Grassley” is a 'sham” because the not-open-to-the-public meetings create a filter that prevents the open discussion about which Grassley boasts.
As a Horizons board member, Nilles said it would have been 'uncomfortable to push difficult questions at him” in that setting.
However, following the meeting, Nilles did speak to Grassley about his refusal to hold hearings on President Barack Obama's nomination of Judge Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Even when Grassley is visiting a high school, factory, office, hospital or service club as the guest of a local host, Levine said he invites questions and comments from Iowans on any subject.
Although visits to businesses typically include a brief tour, 'the vast majority of the time is spent in Q&A with a gathering of employees, which is sometimes hundreds of Iowans, and, again, many who would otherwise be unable to access a Q&A meeting,” Levine said.
Progress Iowa, however, sees a pattern.
'He has intentionally avoided hearing from the open public in most of Iowa's largest counties,” Sinovic said. 'This is not just a one-year anomaly.”
Since 2011, Grassley held just three public town hall meetings in Iowa's 10 most populated counties and none in eight of those 10.
'Grassley is essentially hiding from the public input of nearly half of his constituents,” Sinovic said.
Among Progress Iowa's findings:
' Grassley has not held a public meeting in Polk, Linn, Johnson, Black Hawk, Woodbury, Dubuque, Story, Dallas, Jasper, Buena Vista or Fayette counties in the last six years. Census.gov shows those counties make up about 45 percent of Iowa's total population.
' Less than half of his 99 county tour meetings are open to the public. This year, Grassley has stated he has visited 72 counties, but just 25 of those events have been public town-hall meetings.
Progress Iowa could not find a comprehensive list of Grassley's public meetings, so it built one based on his news releases, online calendar and Twitter feed. It asked twice for a list of all his 99 county meetings, but did not receive a reply, Sinovic said.
According to Grassley's office, in 2014, he had 30 town-hall meetings and question-and-answer sessions at 28 businesses, 18 service clubs and 23 schools. In 2015, he had 39 town-hall meetings, Q & As at 32 businesses, 11 service clubs and 17 schools. So far this year, Grassley has held 24 town-hall meetings and events at 29 local businesses, seven service clubs, 11 schools and one tax forum.
See the full Progress Iowa report at www.FakeGrassley.com.