Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman (WI-6) is not apologizing for using his office budget to send mail to his constituents in an effort to communicate with them. In an interview with Congressman Sean Duffy (WI-7) for Duffy’s “Plaidcast” series of podcasts, Grothman responded to the criticism he recently received in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“We try to communicate with people,” Grothman said in the Plaidcast interview expected to be posted on Thursday. “We send out lots of emails all the time. I have an older district, so I also try to send out a lot in the mail – letters. And a lot of people would prefer to look at something paperwise – the non-email. So we do a lot of that as well.”
The campaign of Grothman’s Democratic opponent Dan Kohl complained to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Grothman is trying to supplement his campaign with the official mail from his congressional office. However, Grothman sees it as vital to how he runs his office.
“As a matter of fact, my staff tries to have as much communication with the constituents in my district as is possible,” Grothman said. “And I think I compare to other districts. I don’t spend as much money on some other things, but communicating with the community is something I make a priority.”
Grothman said the mail communication is well-received by his constituents.
“Quite frankly, as I get to my fundraisers at the church or fundraisers at the Lions Club, I get a lot of real positive comments,” Grothman said.
Duffy criticized the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, calling them “hacks,” for trying to make the mailings an issue. He asked Grothman what he thought of the news story.
“I think like always your mainstream media is sometimes not that favorable to those of us who believe in less government, believe in keeping our borders firm, that sort of thing, believe in a stronger business climate,” Grothman said. “I think the article did a good job of pointing out, though, I don’t spend as much as some other congressmen on staff, on things like rent, and different people choose to spend money on different things.”
Grothman said that keeping the lines of communication open with his constituents has to be a priority for his office.
“I feel that my outreach to constituents, be it mail or email from my office in Washington, or me just showing up at a car show in my district, is a very important thing,” Grothman said.
Duffy said that what he found “outrageous” about the story was that if Grothman didn’t communicate with his constituents, “they would hate you for that as well.”
“So here you’re a great congressman who wants to hear the viewpoint of his constituents and you’re using every medium possible to talk to them and let them know what you’re doing but also get their feedback about what their concerns are,” Duffy said. “And you have a left-wing press in Milwaukee actually taking strikes at you, putting this on the front page of the newspaper, I think it’s disgusting.”
“I’ll say it, I don’t think you have to, but I think it’s disturbing,” Duffy said.
Grothman said the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is “out of touch.”
“Because they don’t know that people don’t get emails today,” Grothman said. “And our difficulty in getting people’s email addresses, and that’s particularly true for the older population.”
In an email to RightWisconsin, the author of the story in the Journal Sentinel Lee Berquist encouraged readers to read the story for themselves to determine whether it’s a “hack” piece.
“I quote Mr. Grothman in the story in the third graf saying he relies heavily on mail because he wants to keep in touch with his constituents,” Berquist wrote. “I quoted him before Kohl.”
Berquist said his story also confirmed what Grothman had said about his constituents being older than all but one other congressional district. The Journal Sentinel reporter also confirmed in the story that Grothman’s office spends less on staff, rent and other expenses compared to other congressional offices.
Berquist defended the newsworthiness of the story on Grothman’s use of his congressional office budget on direct mail.
“Grothman said on talk radio last fall that he was having trouble raising money,” Berquist wrote. “I thought it was noteworthy, now months later, that he spent more on franking – the highest in the delegation – than he had on his re-election.”
In the podcast interview, Duffy also asked Grothman to compare the protests over Act 10 with today’s “resist” protests against President Donald Trump. Grothman was a member of the state senate when Act 10, Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill that ended collective bargaining over benefits for public employees, was passed in 2011. Act 10 has saved taxpayers over $5 billion and counting since its enactment.
“I didn’t see the anger in people in Wisconsin that we got from the resist movement,” Grothman said. “And I really appreciate all the public employees in Wisconsin. Maybe they voted the way, you know, voted against certain people. They didn’t have that anger that you get from some of the people that are mad at President Trump.”