Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen tattles on anti-Trump constituent.

Powerful GOP Congressman Tattled on Constituent for Criticizing Him, and Now She’s Out of a Job

Powerful GOP Congressman Tattled on Constituent for Criticizing Him, and Now She’s Out of a Job

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May 15 2017 11:19 AM

A Powerful GOP Congressman Tattled on His Constituent for Criticizing Him, and Now She’s Out of a Job


New Jersey Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (middle) in Washington on Jan. 2, 2013.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Powerful New Jersey Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen pushed a New Jersey bank executive into resigning her job when he alerted her colleagues that she'd made critical comments about him in the press, the New York public radio station WNYC reported Monday. Frelinghuysen, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, tattled via a handwritten note added to the end of a campaign letter mailed to a board member at Lakeland Bank:

The form letter, on campaign stationery, asks Frelinghuysen’s supporters to donate two years ahead of his next election because he is under attack. “But let’s be clear 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,” the letter says.
Above the word local, there’s a hand-written asterisk in the same blue ink as Frelinghuysen’s signature. At the bottom of the letter, scrawled with a pen, is the corresponding footnote: “P.S. One of the ringleaders works in your bank!”

Frelinghuysen also apparently attached a news clipping to the letter in which the "ringleader"—senior VP and assistant general counsel Saily Avelenda—was quoted. Avelenda is one of the co-founders of a group called "NJ 11th for Change" that has criticized Frelinghuysen, a self-identified "moderate," for supporting Donald Trump and pressured the congressman to meet with constituents at town halls. She told WNYC that she was subsequently "questioned and criticized" for her activism by her bosses (those are WNYC's words, not hers) and that their disapproval was one of multiple reasons she chose to leave her job.

Now, while this sounds like a questionable use of Frelinghuysen's time and influence, one could perhaps forgive Avelenda's colleagues for being concerned if she were, like, a total loose cannon who was always missing work because she was retweeting Russia conspiracies and vowing to overthrow the oligarchy by force. So I looked for her name in the Nexis news database, and in addition to discovering that she was apparently promoted in late March, I found what I think are the only two news articles in which she was quoted discussing politics, which would mean that one of them was the article that Frelinghuysen forwarded to her colleague. One quote was in Politico:

“We are here to show people in our district who have voted for [Frelinghuysen] in the past what he’s really about these days, what his actual voting record is," Avelenda said. “Part of what we’re trying to do is to show that that label, 'moderate,' doesn’t apply anymore."

The other was in another WNYC piece:

"Part of what our goal is is to educate, to ensure they are aware of the individual that sits in that seat today," Avelenda said. "So that when they go make a choice they have all the information they need to make a choice."

Wow! A real Vladimir Lenin over here, radically making such radical pronouncements as "people should know how their congressman voted."*

*Correction, May 15, 2017: This post originally misspelled Vladimir Lenin’s first name.