MacArthur Fundraiser Asks for Help to “Fight Back” Against His Own Constituents

After telling their congressman, Tom MacArthur, that they are not “paid protesters,” constituents find highly edited versions of themselves in a fundraiser video. The fundraiser is officially promoted by the congressman and explicitly asks for help to “fight back against” them.

Tom MacArthur is the Republican representative for New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District, spanning roughly the area between Philadelphia and Tom’s River. On February 14, MacArthur held a “tele-town hall” where he answered a question about why he is hesitant to hold in-person town halls. According to philly.com:

[MacArthur] said such events were being “hijacked.”

“I like hearing divergent views, but I don’t want to be baited into having an event that some outside group can just make a spectacle out of,” MacArthur said, accusing protesters of being “bused in” or paid to cause disruption.

In order to respond to this statement, about thirty constituents, most of them women, went to MacArthur’s Marlton office on the morning of Friday, February 17. They were greeted by Frank Luna, who serves as MacArthur’s District Chief of Staff.

Earlier in the morning, Mr. Luna had posted on Twitter:

FrankALuna on Twitter: “At an @IndivisibleTeam protest this week, a 71 yr old old staffer was injured. That will not happen at t

As described in the next section, the tweet refers to the staff member of a California Republican congressman, who sustained an injury that may have been contributed to by a member of Indivisible. Indivisible is a national group centered around resisting Trump and his agenda. Local members of Indivisible: NJ 3rd District, some of whom would indeed attend that morning’s meeting, told me that Luna’s tweet felt like a warning directed towards them.

Referring to the upcoming meeting, Luna asks in another tweet, is “fifty people showing up to meet with four [staff members] an intimidation tactic?,” and that although he loves meeting with constituents and does so every day, “most aren’t associated [with a] group that injured a 71-year-old staffer.”

Indivisible O.C. “causes” the injury of a California Republican staffer

On February 14th, members of Indivisible Orange County visited the office of California Republican representative Dana Rohrabacher. They were there to deliver Valentine’s Day cards as part of a larger effort to persuade the congressman to hold an in-person town hall. This is something that he and four of his Orange County peers had so far not done. They were met with a closed door, so they had a two-year-old girl slip one of the cards underneath it.

Kathleen Staunton, a 71-year-old female staffer, unfortunately chose to open the door at the same moment, accidentally hitting the girl in the head. (According to her mother, the girl was startled but not hurt.) After seeing the crowd and its strong reaction, Staunton tried to close the door, but someone on the outside grabbed it and resisted. Staunton fell. She declined to be taken to the hospital by paramedics, but was later taken by a friend.

Despite acknowledging it may not have been deliberate, Rohrabacher declared it “a mob action that not only intimidates but coerces.” He continued:

“Though the protesters think of themselves as idealists, they engaged in political thuggery, pure and simple. They do not want, as they’ve claimed, to hold a town hall meeting with me. These are unruly activists on whom the lessons of civility and democratic participation have been lost. They have repeatedly disrupted the normal operations of my district office, preventing my staff from serving constituents with real needs[. Despite the name “Indivisible,”] they are bent on dividing the nation…. These holier than thou obstructionists will be held responsible for this outrageous assault.”

The person pulling on the door may be somewhat responsible for the staffer’s injuries. Although likely, it is unclear if the person was a member of Indivisible, and there is no evidence of the mass unruliness or assault as suggested by Rohrabacher. In addition, the police made no arrests.

The meeting between constituents and MacArthur’s staff

Here is the full video of the meeting between Luna and the thirty constituents. The meeting was also covered on Blue Jersey, which presented a shorter video from a different angle.

When asked to describe the encounter, multiple participants told me that they perceived Mr. Luna as “intimidating,” “dismissive,” and “condescending.” They felt that he was more interested in ending the meeting quickly than in acknowledging, discussing, or addressing their concerns. Indeed, at multiple points in the video (the first at around ninety seconds), Mr. Luna abruptly asks, “Is that it?” When asked three times for a reason why the congressman is choosing not to attend an upcoming town hall (one set up by constituents), Luna responds to each, “He will not be there.”

Like California Congressman Rohrabacher, Luna suggested in this meeting (and explicitly stated in private to more than one of the participants), that situations such as this are “a distraction from doing important work.”

When asked for evidence to back up the congressman’s claim of “paid protesters,” Mr. Luna referred to two recent protests at the congressman’s offices that were allegedly organized by a paid staff member of a group called New Jersey Citizen Action, both of which he said were “widely covered” by publications including the Burlington County Times.

At the same time, he acknowledged that the protesters themselves were not paid or from outside the district: “I spent two hours with them, they were very very nice people.” Regarding protesters in general, he said, “[t]he overwhelming majority, I would say 99% of the folks I have encountered [have been] pleasant, vocal, happy, well-meaning, [and] well-intentioned.”

A gentleman made the point of how this undermines MacArthur’s claims of people being bused in from outside the district, to which Luna responded, “Okay. We can agree to disagree.”

After the meeting concluded, Luna stated that his original tweet was simply stating facts, and he emphasized that the meeting itself was “great” and that nothing inappropriate happened.

Edited video of this encounter is used in an official fundraising plea explicitly to “fight back against these liberal activists”

On Monday, March 12, on his non-congressional Facebook page, Tom MacArthur posted a new fundraising plea (original link) featuring a short edited version of the video, with a request for contributions in order to “fight back against these liberal activists.”

View post on imgur.com

The message of both the video and the fundraising plea are the exact opposite of what these people, his constituents, tried to express. After this experience, they have the extra fear that showing up to communicate with their congressman is now a gamble; one that may result in their very presence being used against them in public advertisements.

While phrases such as “there are paid protesters from outside the district” and “a protester caused an injury” may be technically, narrowly true, MacArthur delivers them to an audience that sometimes uncritically interprets them to mean much more. These statements are officially promoted by the congressman, then nothing is done to refute them when they happen to be misinterpreted or exaggerated. Like many of his Republican colleagues, MacArthur seems to be using these as tools to actively pit one set of constituents against another, in an effort to suppress dissent.


Edited by: Ben Szioli

Liked it? Take a second to support Ocean County Politics on Patreon!
Jeff Epstein

Jeff Epstein

Jeff is the co-founder of Citizens’ Media TV. He was a super-volunteer for Bernie Sanders, was one of around forty candidates in the country to be personally endorsed by the senator, and was a pledged delegate at the 2016 DNC. Jeff is also a finalist for Brand New Congress. You can see more of his writing on citizensmedia.tv.

You may also like...

  • Im Trump the 25 mil fraud

    Hey Tom
    Explain this
    White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Thursday that cutting funding to several anti-poverty programs is “one of the most compassionate things we can do.”
    Mulvaney took questions at the daily press briefing about the administration’s budget proposals, which call for deep cuts to virtually all federal programs except the military, homeland security and the Veterans Administration.
    “No, I don’t think so,” said Mulvaney when asked if the budget was “hard-hearted,” adding, “In fact, I think it’s one of the most compassionate things we can do. … You’re only focusing on half of the equation, you’re only focusing on recipients of the money. We’re trying to focus both on the recipients of the money and the folks who give us the money in the first place. And I think it’s fairly compassionate to go to them and say, ‘Look, we’re not going to ask you for your hard-earned money any more.’ ‘Single mom of two in Detroit, OK, give us your money.’ We’re not going to do that anymore … unless we can guarantee to you that that money is actually being used in a proper function, and I think that is about as compassionate as you can get.”
    Under the current tax plan, a single parent pays a 10 percent federal tax rate, or $1,255 on a $34,000 annual income, after applying the exceptions available. Under Trump’s proposed plan, the rate would increase to 12 percent, and with the reduction of various exceptions, the same single parent would be paying $2,280.
    Mulvaney specifically cited Head Start, which runs early-childhood programs including free breakfasts for children from low-income families, as an example of an unjustified expenditure, arguing that there was no proof that children performed better in school when they weren’t hungry.
    “They’re supposed to help kids who don’t get fed at home get fed so they do better in school,” Mulvaney said in discussing the purpose of Head Start programs. “Guess what? There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually doing that. No demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better in school, which is what, when we took your money from you, to say, ‘Look, we’re going to go spend it on an after-school program,’ the way we justified it was: ‘These programs are going to help these kids do better in school and get better jobs.’ And we can’t prove that that’s happening.”
    The National Educational Association says that missing meals — particularly breakfast — can affect children’s achievement and development. Mulvaney did not address the question of whether it was appropriate for the government to feed hungry children, and whether or not it helps their school performance.
    Mulvaney also said that Meals on Wheels, a program that delivers meals to seniors and people with disabilities, was “not showing any results.” A 2013 peer-reviewed analysis of eight studies found, “All but two studies found home-delivered meal programs to significantly improve diet quality, increase nutrient intakes, and reduce food insecurity and nutritional risk among participants. Other beneficial outcomes include increased socialization opportunities, improvement in dietary adherence, and higher quality of life.”
    Mulvaney explained that the proposed budget would not directly defund Meals on Wheels, but would instead cut funding to Community Development Block Grants, which go to states and can be used for the program.
    “It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which they will not be significantly and negatively impacted if the president’s budget were enacted,” Meals on Wheels spokeswoman Jenny Bertolette told CNN on Thursday.
    Earlier Thursday, Mulvaney used the same argument to explain why the proposed budget would cut funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which amounts to approximately $1.35 per American per year. The proposed budget also would provide a $54 billion increase in defense spending.
    “When you start looking at places that we reduce spending, one of the questions we asked was: Can we really continue to ask a coal miner in West Virginia or a single mom in Detroit to pay for these programs?” said Mulvaney on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “The answer was no. We can ask them to pay for defense, and we will, but we can’t ask them to continue to pay for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
    The White House budget is essentially a wish list of priorities. It is Congress that finally passes the budget, which often ends up very different from what was proposed by the president — even a president of the same party

  • llewellynh

    MacArthur really needs to get his PR act together. Many of his fund raising letters are ludicrous and if you email him, chances are good you get a response but not to the issue you are raising.

    I have communicated with Luna and have found that he is on the ball and is willing to put a bit of time into his replies. But something is wrong and I haven’t found it to be him.

    I also doubt if MacArthur reads emails sent to him: he certainly doesn’t read the responses sent out under his name from his Washington office.

    Paul Ryan got all of the Republican congresspeople worked up by having a meeting warning them that “paid outsiders” were going to attack. That might be true in some cases but this area most likely isn’t a hot spot for that sort of behavior and there obviously has been an overreaction when it comes to our Congressman meeting the public who he represents – whether they agree with him or not. There are always police there and he is safe.

  • Ken Bank

    Seems to me a defamation suit is in order. Any lawyers out there?

  • TRWatch