Political Notebook

McCarthy, Nunes hold fundraiser amid protester claims they are ignoring them

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, on Capitol Hill in this file photo.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, on Capitol Hill in this file photo. AP

Two Republican congressional leaders are facing criticism for not holding town-hall meetings with constituents, but instead deciding they had time to attend a fundraiser Tuesday evening.

Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare is to be the featured speaker at the Kern County Republican Party’s Lincoln Day Dinner, an annual event put on by the party. As chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Nunes holds one of the most powerful positions in Congress. Hosting the gathering, according to the Facebook posting about the event, are Bakersfield Rep. Kevin McCarthy; David Valadao, the Republican congressman from Hanford; state Sen. Jean Fuller of Bakersfield, the GOP leader in her house; and state Assembly GOP Whip Vince Fong of Bakersfield.

The event, at the Doubletree Hotel at 3100 Camino Del Rio Court in Bakersfield, will include special seating with McCarthy and Nunes to patrons who dish out $10,000.

But outside, protesters plan to show up for a rally and press conference. They are asking that the representatives “make time for their constituents the way they made time for this fundraiser,” according to a news release issued Monday on behalf of several groups.

Protest organizers said the groups consist of constituents of Nunes’ District 22 and McCarthy’s District 23, as well as special groups like the Young Progressives Coalition and the Democratic Women of Kern. The groups claim Nunes and McCarthy are ignoring constituents, and that they have not held town hall meetings in their districts “for years.”

But Jack Langer, Nunes’ communications director, said the congressman’s most recent town hall meeting was Aug. 31, when 700 to 1,000 people attended a forum in Tulare to discuss the central San Joaquin Valley’s water needs.

“Additionally, Congressman Nunes regularly appears on talk radio shows, sometimes for as long as two hours at a time, in which he answers unscreened questions from constituent callers,” Langer said. “As for constituent service, both Rep. Nunes and his staff are involved.”

Recently, GOP representatives have come under scrutiny at town halls. And just as protests in 2009 focused on health care but reflected broader concerns over an increasingly divisive new president and Democrats' monopoly control over Washington, now, too, constituent complaints at town hall meetings appear to reflect more general fears about the Trump administration and the implications of one-party GOP rule of the nation's capital.

Langer dismissed the claims from the groups as merely talking points by “left-wing activist groups.” He also questioned if the protesting groups were the “authentic” voice of the constituents of the Nunes’ district, which stretches from Tulare County to Clovis.

The rally and press conference outside the dinner are scheduled for 6:30 p.m. The dinner and program begin at 7:30 p.m. at the hotel.

The cost to attend the dinner ranges from $200 to $10,000.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado: 559-441-6304, @cres_guez