It’s a stunning abuse of power
Rodney Frelinghuysen via Twitter
While many politicians run on the promise they’ll bring new jobs to their communities, a Republican member of the House of Representatives forced one of his constituents to resign because of her political activities. Recently, New Jersey Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen sent a fundraising letter to Joseph O’Dowd, a board member at Lakeland Bank, soliciting campaign donations.
“Let’s be clear that there are organized forces—both national and local —who are already hard at work to put a stop to an agenda of limited government, economic growth, stronger national security,” the form letter said. Frelinghuysen also added a handwritten note at the bottom, informing O’Dowd that one of the opposition “ringleaders,” Saily Avelenda, worked at his bank and attached a news article that quoted her.
After the election of Donald Trump, Avelenda became an active member of NJ 11th for Change, a progressive political organization in Frelinghuysen’s Republican-controlled district. The group has held weekly protests at Frelinghuysen’s offices in New Jersey and Washington, D.C., and held an empty-chair town hall after he refused to face his constituents.
“I had to write a statement to my CEO, and at my level as an assistant general counsel and a senior vice president at this employer, it was not something that I expected,” Avelenda told WNYC. “I thought my congressman put them in a situation, and put me in a really bad situation as the constituent, and used his name, used his position, and used his stationery to try to punish me.”
After being criticized by her employer for her political activities, Avelenda was forced to resign.
For a sitting member of Congress to attack one of his constituents is an unconscionable abuse of power. “It’s certainly troubling,” Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for the nonpartisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “Whether or not it breaks a criminal statute is one issue, but the very clear issue is that it appears that a member of Congress might be using his power to threaten someone’s employment because of their political activities.”