GLENS FALLS — Frustrated by U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik’s lack of public response to constituents and a list of what protesters call “late night and egregious votes,” a group of about 100 gathered on Saturday afternoon to express their discontent and publicly indict the congresswoman for her actions.
“I think we needed to expose Elise Stefanik’s voting record and the underlying consequences of these votes written in such legalese that they needed to be broken down,” said Agata Puccio Stanford, Glens Falls, the founder of The New Resistance USA. “She has refused to hold public town hall meetings. She has to be accountable to our questions as they come to her.”
Stanford said in an interview on Saturday that they will be taking the written indictment to Stefanik’s office on Monday.
“She will know our displeasure,” Stanford said. “She is not really weighing the human toll her votes place on lives.”
After the Electoral College vote late last year, Stanford was so frustrated that she started a The New Resistance USA on Facebook to give others an opportunity to express their feelings about the presidential election results. As the group spread, including people from Nevada, Michigan and Florida, Stanford said they wanted to be more active.
“I decided let’s do a website that has resources,” she said.
At the same time, Stanford started visiting Stefanik, R-Willsboro, at her Glens Falls office to express her concerns. But Stefanik’s lack of response and public availability, led Stanford and others to take action.
And on Saturday, under Stanford’s direction, concerned constituents gathered for a silent protest outside Stefanik’s office. After publicly and silently shunning the congresswoman by turning their backs, the group walked to Glens Falls City Park just past the Crandall Public Library for a public reading of Stefanik’s voting record since January. At that time they publicly indicted her actions.
“Representative Stefanik, we have today, April 8, 2017, presented in a public forum at City Park in Glens Falls, NY, the charges against you through the reading of your voting record to date from the convening of the 115th Congress,” Stanford read. “You took an oath of office … having failed to uphold your oath, the consensus of the people is to hand down this indictment. The following are the charges against you.”
Stanford and Drew Monthie took turns reading 24 legislative votes and the implication of each vote.
A sampling of votes and explanations included in the reading:
“H.J. Res. 83 — This joint resolution nullifies the Department of Labor’s rule that was published on Dec. 19, 2016, about employers’ ongoing obligation to make and maintain records of work-related injuries and illnesses. She voted yes.”
“H. Amdt. 20 (Peterson) to H.R. 5 — This prohibits agencies from releasing information on pending rule changes so the public can weigh in. She voted yes.”
Tom Flanagin, Stefanik’s communications director, disagrees with the protesters’ interpretation of these votes. “You can find the real descriptions of the bills on Congress.gov and you can find explanations for all of her legislative votes on Facebook too,” he said.
Monthie said that “many of these votes are done late on Fridays or in the middle of the night, so people are not aware.”
“She’s accountable to all of us, we pay her salary,” he said.
Again, Flanagin disputes these claims.
“I am unaware of any of these votes being taken late Fridays or in the middle of the night,” said Flanagin. “Our office is very responsive to constituents and we have many public events being scheduled over the coming weeks.”
“In addition to the 50-plus meetings she has recently held with hundreds of constituents across the district,” he said, offering a list of meetings held in Glens Falls on Friday.
According to Flanagin, on Friday Stefanik met with Schuylerville residents, CEG business Growth Service, Queensbury residents, Stillwater residents, League of Women Voters of Saratoga County, Eagle Bridge residents, Greenfield Center residents.
“Congresswoman Stefanik sets the standard for transparency in Congress by posting her votes to Facebook and her official schedule on her website,” Flanagin said. “Congresswoman Stefanik looks forward to continuing her robust constituent engagement over this Congress.”
Monthie said he participated on Saturday partially because of what he sees as destructive policies of the Trump Administration and because Stefanik refuses to meet with constituents in a public forum.
“The ones she has held are pre-scripted,” he said. “Or she will meet in small groups off-the-record.”
In May Stefanik is hosting a televised town hall from Plattsburgh that will be live streamed. But Monthie said many in her district do not have access to live streaming.
“A large portion of her constituents live where there is no streaming, they still have dial-up connections,” he said, referring in particular to Schroon Lake. “So they have no voice. Any of her constituents should be able to ask her about her voting.”
According to Stefanik’s Facebook page:
“This week my offices fielded over 250 calls and answered over 1,400 letters and emails. Thank you for contacting us to share your thoughts. “— April 7
“This week my offices fielded over 1,240 calls and answered over 7,000 letters and emails. Thank you for contacting us to share your thoughts.” — March 31
But Mary Lou Stern of Greenwich said she has had a tough time getting answers from Stefanik or her staff.
“When I ask her staff about her stance on an issue, they say they are not sure of her stance on that issue,” she said on Saturday while at the protest.
Stern went on to say that she is a retired science teacher and she sees economic loop holes in her environmental voting record.
“She is environmentally supportive if it is economically viable,” she said, adding that if it will make money Stefanik supports it. “But if there is a cost to the environment, it’s not her priority.”
Stern’s husband, Alan Stern, also at the Glens Falls protest, agreed and added that he is very concerned about Stefanik’s funding sources, referring to large contributions from Elliot Management and billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer.
According to previous Post-Star reports, in 2015, about 27 percent of Stefanik’s total quarterly contributions came through Winning Women 2016, a fundraising committee that billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Singer established. Additionally, about $56,600 came from Singer’s company, Elliott Management and Singer personally contributed $5,400.
“She is one of his top protégées,” Alan Stern said.
Attempts to reach Stefanik in Washington, D.C. and Glens Falls were unsuccessful.
Also on tap Saturday was activist singer-songwriter, Neal Herr, who led the group in songs re-written to popular tunes. There was, “There’s a Kind of Hush,” originally by Herman’s Hermits and re-written by Herr. “There’s a kind of hush — all over Glens Falls , today. All over Glens Falls you can hear the sound of people you serve. Don’t ignore us — You’re our represent — tative, elected to do what we want you to. The people you serve!”
Other songs included “The Fool on the Hill,” referring to President Trump and “Climate Change,” to the tune of the Beatle’s “Yesterday.”
Before disbanding, several of the protesters went to the Crandall Library to compose pre-stamped postcards to Stefanik.
“They can express their sentiments,” Stanford said.
Kathleen Phalen-Tomaselli is a features writer at The Post-Star. She can be reached at email@example.com for comments or story ideas.