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Government

U.S. Rep. Roskam declines invitation to be part of Feb. 23 constituents meeting; congressman agrees to meet with League of Women Voters, media not permitted

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton
U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Wheaton, has declined an invitation by seven League of Women Voters groups to be part of a constituents meeting Feb. 23.

Roskam is not able to attend, said Michelle Peterson of the League of Women Voters of Glen Ellyn. However, Roskam has invited league members to meet with him later this week, she said in an email. The league has accepted the invitation.

"It is our intention to explore with Rep. Roskam ways which the League of Women Voters can facilitate better and more frequent communication in the Sixth Congressional District," Peterson said in the email.

Peterson said Roskam has requested the group bring no members of the media or recording devices.

"We are agreeing to these limitations, because we believe it is important to have this face-to-face opportunity to talk with him about this important matter," she said.

Roskam did not attend a league candidate forum in fall 2016, and earlier this month, a planned meeting with constituents from his district and Roskam's staff was canceled after a reporter showed up to the meeting.

St. Charles resident Patty Gawrys said though the group had an appointment Feb. 1 to discuss the Affordable Care Act, Roskam’s staff canceled the appointment and refused to meet with them because a reporter was present.

“About 15 people showed up, so we stayed outside his office,” Gawrys said. “They said two people could come in, then they came out and said nobody could come in. They canceled the meeting. They did not want the newspaper [reporter] there.”

The previous week, 250 constituents came with speakers to urge Roskam to accept the science of climate change and do something about it. They did their presentation in the lobby and went into the district office to deliver postcards stating their issue.

“We typically don’t open up meetings with staff members to the press because we want to facilitate an open and candid conversation where our constituents are comfortable expressing their views," Roskam spokesman David Pasch said in an email.

Pasch said if those requesting a meeting want to bring a reporter with them, the office asks to be notified in advance.

Glen Ellyn resident Sandra Alexander, who set up the meeting with Roskam’s staff, said being turned away because of a news reporter was a surprise.

“There were no restrictions communicated to me when I scheduled the meeting weeks before it occurred,” Alexander said. “I was not aware media were not allowed in constituent meetings.”

Roskam’s office has reached out to the group to find a new time to meet, Pasch said.

Alexander said she thought the media made a bigger deal out of being turned away from Roskam’s office than what the group put together about the impact of the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

“I feel there were two stories going on that day, and the story we intended to get attention for was totally missed,” Alexander said. “Our meeting was about informing people about the Affordable Care Act. People think it only affects people who get policies through the exchange. They are wrong. This issue affects every single American who gets an insurance policy through the ACA, Medicare, Medicaid or an employer.”

Alexander said they had 30 minutes scheduled, and they planned out 25 minutes of what they wanted to say.

“We never intended for it to become combative,” Alexander said.

The group did their presentation in the lobby where Roskam’s office is located – the same place the previous group did its presentation – recorded it and posted it on YouTube, she said.

The video can be found by visiting youtu.be/9tdh3gpRVzg.

“We have the testimony of three individuals,” Alexander said. “When you hear those stories and what the ACA means to average American people, I think they will be very surprised.”

Reporter Eric Schelkopf contributed to this report.

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