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Whitehouse, Cicilline are RI delegation’s most frequent users of telephone town halls

May 1, 2012

Congressman David Cicilline isn’t alone among Rhode Island’s congressional delegation in having a penchant for using “telephone town halls” to reach out to constituents.

Seth Larson, spokesman for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, estimates Whitehouse has conducted more than a dozen of the telephone forums since he won election in 2006. Larson says Whitehouse, like Cicilline, uses iConstitutent, which is said to charge about $3000 to conduct a telephone town hall. That would make for a taxpayer outlay on Whitehouse’s part in the ballpark of at least $36,000, since the calls are funded through senators and representatives’ office expenses.

While telephone town halls have become popular for members of Congress, critics call them a taxpayer-funded form of campaigning. For his part, Larson notes that Politico has dubbed Whitehouse among the most frugal members of the Senate, and he adds:

Telephone town halls are one of many ways – from community dinners to small business tours – that Sheldon reaches out to hear from Rhode Islanders so he can make their voices heard in Washington.  The calls provide an opportunity for Rhode Islanders to speak directly with Sheldon and share their opinions.  They have also been a useful way to disseminate important information in a timely manner.  For example, following the 2010 floods, Sheldon held a telephone town hall with emergency management officials for Rhode Islanders to ask questions about ongoing relief efforts.

Chip Unruh, spokesman for Senator Jack Reed, says Reed has taken part in telephone town halls hosted by other groups, such as the local chapter of AARP, but has not conducted his own in recent year.

Jonathon Dworkin, spokesman for Congressman Jim Langevin, says Langevin has held one telephone town hall in his current term. Langevin is due to hold his second this Thursday evening, Dworkin says, and people who would like to hear from the congressman are welcome to call his office.

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