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Colorado Congresswoman Diana DeGette, along with Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva , have formally requested the House Government Reform Committee to investigate incidents like this one in which citizens were denied entry or removed from taxpayer-funded Presidential events open to the public because of their political beliefs.
Here is the main part of the letter they wrote to Government Reform Committee Chairman Tom Davis (R-VA) and Ranking Member Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) (not yet available online):
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On Monday, March 21, 2005, three Denver-area residents, Alex Young, Karen Bauer, and Leslie Weise, were forcibly removed from a Bush Administration-organized Presidential event on the future of Social Security held in Denver, Colorado. The three legally obtained tickets to the event from U.S. Congressman Bob Beauprez’s (R-CO) office and had done nothing to disrupt the event. An individual, wearing a blue suit, an earpiece, and a red lapel pin, who represented himself as affiliated with the presidential event told the three that they had been “ID’ed” and eventually forced them to leave before the event began.
According to press reports, Secret Service Agent Lon Garner, who is posted in the Denver field office, stated that the three were screened and removed by a Republican staffer because the car in which they arrived had a “No More Blood for Oil” bumper sticker on it. He also stated that staffing and control of public access to the presidential event was the responsibility of the local Republican Party.
Similar incidents have occurred in other states. On March 21, 2005 University of Arizona student Steven Gerner was denied access to a Presidential event in Tucson, Arizona, also on the future of Social Security. Gerner, who was wearing a UA Young Democrats t-shirt, was waiting in line to enter the venue when someone identified as event staff took and destroyed his properly-obtained ticket. Forty-two people were denied access to a Presidential event on the future of Social Security in Fargo, North Dakota on February 3, 2005, because their names had been placed on a blacklist created by local Republicans. Those excluded from this taxpayer-funded event included a Fargo city commissioner, a progressive radio producer, a deputy Democratic campaign manager, and a number of university professors.
It is disconcerting and irresponsible for Administration staff, or the Administration’s local event staff, to deny certain Americans the opportunity to see the President of the United States at a public event based on their political affiliation or viewpoints if there is no security threat and the attendees have made no effort to disrupt the event. At best, this is an example of overzealous event staff politicizing what should non-partisan public events. At worse, public officials may be violating citizens’ constitutionally-protected rights to free speech and assembly while misusing taxpayer funds.
The incidents in Colorado, Arizona, and North Dakota appear to be part of a coordinated campaign penalizing Americans for their political beliefs and denying them the opportunity to see their President speak in person. As similar incidents occur in state after state, the questions of impropriety surrounding these events grow larger and larger.
We request that the House Committee on Government Reform investigate whether these incidents violate any laws against misuse of government funds for partisan political purposes. We also request that the committee determine whether the staffing, exclusion procedures, and taxpayer financing of these Presidential events on the future of Social Security were proper.
It would be nice if Congressman Bob Beauprez would join in the investigation request, as he is on record as criticizing the removal of the Denver Three from the President’s Social Security event in Denver.