POUGHKEEPSIE — Opponents of U.S. Rep. John Faso, R-19, made their presence known outside the Grand Hotel where the freshman congressman was meeting with members of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce, expressing their concerns about his alleged ties to wealthy special interests and his lack of presence in the district during his tenure.
Protesters, some in costume, set up shop across from the hotel, in front of the bus station on Market Street early Wednesday morning with signs while Faso discussed the major topics in Washington with members of the Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Also among those in attendance at the meeting were two of the congressman’s possible opponents in the 2018 election: Brian Flynn, of Hunter, and Sue Sullivan, of Ulster County.
The main focus of the protesters was their ire over the conservative nonprofit group Reclaim NY and Breitbart Executive Steve Bannon and hedge fund manager Robert Mercer and their belief that Faso has connections with these entities. Protesters dressed up as these figures, in satirical style.
The congressman has denied his connection to Reclaim NY, which has been criticized for its work of filing FOIL requests for outgoing checks to local municipalities and school districts.
Peter Greenough, of Millerton, said he was concerned about the lack of real town-hall events with the congressman during his tenure.
“The town halls [Faso] has held have required questions be submitted ahead of the event, which is a faux process,” Greenough said. “He is not supposed to know the questions ahead of time.”
Greenough criticized the planned town hall in Espous at the end of the month for requiring questions to be submitted upon registering for the event.
The town hall event for Aug. 31 at 6:45 p.m. will make 60 tickets available to the general public to be distributed at the door.
“I’ll be there. But it is not a fair playing field, if [Faso] is going to be able to pick and choose what questions he answers,” said Anne McCabe, from Millerton. “Protesters do not want to go to the town hall, the people he represents want to go.”
McCabe said Faso should not avoid questions that make him uncomfortable.
“It is going to be uncomfortable for him. Some questions will be uncomfortable for him, but he has made some uncomfortable decisions in office about things like health care and concealed carry,” McCabe said. “He should stand behind his policies.”
Flynn, who walked across Market Street to press the flesh with the anti-Faso protesters after the meeting, said he attended the event because he is a businessman.
Flynn took over AccuMED, a Buffalo company that manufactures medical equipment, in 2008 when it was on the brink of collapse.
“I think the most important thing right now is creating jobs and I wanted to hear the congressman’s thoughts on that,” Flynn said. “I was disappointed. He spoke about the need for a growing economy and the only thing he said for a solution was that we needed to get people off benefits and working.”
Flynn yet again attacked Faso’s work with health care reform, something the congressman has received flak on by state officials and advocacy groups.
Faso recently discussed his work with the bipartisan Problem Solving Caucus to produce amendments to the existing health care system that will receive widespread support following the failure of the Senate to pass an Affordable Care Act repeal-and-replace bill.
The caucus has already recommended bringing a discount meant to lower deductibles and copayments under congressional oversight and the appropriations process but continue to fund it, create a dedicated stability fund that individual states can use to reduce premiums and limit losses for providing coverage — especially for those with pre-existing conditions — raise the threshold for the mandate that businesses offer health care plans to businesses with 500 full-time employees and would repeal the medical device tax.
“He kept talking about how he is looking for bipartisan solutions for the ACA now,” Flynn said. “He was critical to getting Trumpcare out of committee.”
“I think he is struggling with the fact that he is supposed to be representing the people of the district and not a donor base or the alt-right,” Flynn said.