Utah – Telling reporters that everyone in his district likes and trusts him, Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz asserted that many of the people who turned out to his February 9 Town Hall event were “paid protesters.” Conservative media outlets have long alleged, without evidence, that billionaire financier George Soros deploys demonstrators and protesters to events and pays them $1,500 or $2,500, depending on which source is making the allegation.
On Thursday, more than 1,500 people arrived at a suburban Salt Lake City high school to question Chaffetz, who chairs the powerful House Oversight Committee. The committee targeted presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s home email server for investigation ahead of and during the 2016 election, and Chaffetz himself is alleged to have leaked James Comey’s infamous letter to congress ten days before election day. Fire marshals were forced to close the doors to the auditorium before the whole crowd had entered, leaving hundreds of boisterous citizens gathered outside for hours, while those inside were able to put just 13 questions to the congressman before he abruptly ended the event 40 minutes early.
While reporters covering the town hall found that the crowd was almost entirely Utahns and most were residents of Chaffetz’s district – and none reported being paid to attend – the allegation that civic engagement can be harnessed as a jobs program certainly raises some tantalizing possibilities for how individual legislators could deal with the “economic anxiety” that many pointed to during the fall campaign as being the animating force behind the behavior of downscale white voters in rural counties. Clearly, those members representing far-flung communities in places like Florida, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, owe it to their constituents to take advantage of this flood of money that George Soros is said to be infusing into their communities.
Think about the work that Soros is allegedly paying for: Ordinary Americans go to a public place, generally one that’s ADA-compliant and has a light police presence to maintain everyone’s safety, and hang out for three to four hours. Attendees may even be able to make a comment or question their member of congress. At the end, at least in Chaffetz’s fantasy world, these people are given a check that amounts to a wage of several hundred dollars an hour.
If Chaffetz and other members representing rural places really cared about their constituents’ “economic anxiety,” they’d schedule town halls weekly and let Fever Dream George Soros put Americans back to work. In the meantime, Chaffetz, who had promised to continue with dogged investigations into Hillary Clinton’s life and work if she won the election, has described requests to investigate the widely asserted corruption, pay-to-play, Russian influence, and self-dealing of the current administration as a “fishing expedition” and that looking into these matters would be an “abuse of power.”
George Soros should keep his checkbook handy.