It’s not uncommon for political leaders to lash out against their critics. But a Republican Congressman from New Jersey is taking it to new levels, by directly contacting the employers of those who have spoken out against him.
Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen sent a fundraising letter in March to a board member of a local bank in New Jersey, which stated 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.”
But above the word local, an asterisk was made in hand-written, blue ink. At the bottom of the letter, Frelinghuysen had written “P.S. One of the ringleaders works in your bank!” And attached to the fundraising letter was a news article which quoted Saily Avelenda, who worked at the bank in question, and who opposes many of the Congressman’s political stances.
“Needless to say, that did cause some issues at work that were difficult to overcome,” Avelenda said, according to WNYC. She eventually left her position as assistant general counsel, citing political pressure as a main motivator for her departure.
Frelinghuysen’s office wrote a brief explanation defending his position in sending the original letter to the employer, which attempts to say that Frelinghuysen himself doesn’t have any influence in the bank’s actions.
The Congressman wrote a brief and innocuous note at the bottom of a personal letter in regard to information that had been reported in the media. He was in no way involved in any of the bank’s business and is unaware of any of the particulars about this employee’s status with the bank.
According to reporting from the Hill, the letter itself is not illegal, meaning that other lawmakers could potentially engage in similar behavior across the country — if they haven’t already done so. Such letter writing could, however, also lead to some political backlash, evident this morning on some Twitter observations after Frelinghuysen’s letter was publicly revealed.
Wow, this is not a good look for Frelinghuysen. https://t.co/eIlQEtD5rB
— Ben Weyl (@benweyl) May 15, 2017
— NJ11forchange (@nj11forchange) May 15, 2017
Impressed Frelinghuysen went with the "don't blame me, I'm unfamiliar with how jobs work" explanation
— Tim Murphy (@timothypmurphy) May 15, 2017
This is so messed up. A Congressman complained to a woman's employer about her protesting him. She resigned. https://t.co/GWdeOTN7MQ
— Jon Hecht (@JonEHecht) May 15, 2017
Avelenda added that she felt her position at the bank was compromised due to the Congressman’s actions contacting her bosses. “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,” she said.