Posted on February 23, 2017
Since the election in November, constituents across Pennsylvania have been trying to find Senator Pat Toomey to voice concerns about his position on a range of issues from healthcare to immigration, education to tax reform. Unfortunately, their concerns were met with unanswered or even disconnected phone lines, locked office doors, and an unapologetic lack of response from staffers and Senator Toomey alike. Then, the flood gates opened and constituents from across the commonwealth started to form advocacy groups and events to desperately try and communicate with the Senator.
But even with this increased attention aimed at Senator Toomey- there’s been little to no response from the Senator, and when he does respond- it’s been in the form of ill-planned attempts that are inaccessible for most constituents (I’m looking at you, tele-townhall that was announced 80 minutes prior to its start time). In response to questions about his lack of response, Senator Toomey cited town-halls from 2015 as acceptable examples of his engagement with constituents. What in the actual….? So, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates, working in collaboration with other partners and groups from across the state- including “Tuesdays with Toomey” organizers- decided to form a search party for Senator Toomey.
Here’s what went down:
8:15 AM: Our organizing staff arrives at the Toomey offices in Allentown, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. Marked with “PP Search Party” tees, we were certainly “on the case” and ready to find Senator Toomey.
8:30 AM: Our first groups of lobbyists arrive at each location. They head in (bursting with anticipation).
9:00 AM: Uh oh. Our peeps in Philly only got through one visit before the security downstairs tells our second group that they can’t go up to Senator Toomey’s office. We’ll have to wait for one of his staffers to come down and talk with us. (That’s okay, we’ll wait)
9:05 AM: While all this is going down in the eastern part of the state, our first group of lobbyists from Pittsburgh finally emerge from their visit with the Toomey staff in that office. And it turns out, their visit wasn’t the bastion of productive conversation.
In fact, the staffer there told us that he had “serious business to attend to,” and that the election was over so we should come to terms with the fact that Toomey won.
Okay, dude, it’s clear that we have come to terms with that fact. That’s why we’re here to talk to him about issues that we care about. Perhaps there’s confusion on your part about what it means to be elected to public office….But moving on.
9:15 AM: Alright, back in the City of Brotherly love our visits start to become further and further delayed. Our lobby visits start to run together and a larger group of constituents starts to build as they wait for the Toomey staff to come talk with them.
In Allentown and Harrisburg, things were moving right along at this point. The staff in these locations were friendly, albeit a little annoyed, to meet with the Planned Parenthood Search Party.
10:00 AM: Oh snap, the staffers upstairs aren’t answering their phone in Philly. Kudos to the security guy who kept trying to call.
10:30 AM: Now our constituents in Pittsburgh are being told to wait. Someone will “be down” around 11.
11:05 AM: Our constituents are still waiting.
11:45 AM: Our favorite grumpy staffer in Pittsburgh is starting to get more and more hostile. He said to our lobbyists, “Obviously, people don’t want PP since they voted for Toomey.” SMH, guy. (We recently did polling that indicated that 7 in 10 voters are against defunding PP, so there’s that.)
12:38 PM: Woof, in Allentown our lobbyists just had the door shut in their faces. Sounds like the staff there is starting to get annoyed. Eat some lunch, guys, we’re going to be there all day.
Around the same time, Pittsburgh staffer is starting to go down a dark hole of PP myths. He’s started to bring up the videos that from 2015 that were confirmed as false and heavily edited. Yikes.
1:00 PM: Philly’s staff is starting to get a little testy. Maybe everyone needs a lunch break?
1:30 PM: Oh, the staff in Allentown are being much nicer now. Ah, isn’t that nice? Everyone sharing a dialogue around reproductive healthcare? That’s what I’m talking about. And in Harrisburg, the staff continues to meet with our folks in the actual Toomey office. I’m not sure who trained these guys, but they’re top-notch Toomey staff. Maybe they could help those guys in Philly and Pittsburgh out a bit?
2:30 PM: Staff in Allentown seem annoyed that a few of our lobbyists stopped by for a visit without an appointment. I mean, I understand that but it’s been so hard to get a visit lately you can’t blame our peeps for trying. Staff took their letters but politely kicked them out.
3:30: Pittsburgh staffer indicates that they’ve been inundated lately with requests to talk to constituents. Our search party member responded with “Sounds like people have a lot to say. Ya know, you could get all those people together in one place, kind like a townhall, and address everyone at once.”
What is this sorcery you speak of lady? But really, she’s a mother-f’n genius.
4:00: The staff come down to meet our constituents in Pittsburgh. Everyone else across the state is being met with.
4:30 PM: My two-year old, Grace, and her best friend Lilly continue to look for Senator Toomey on their playground. Still no sign of him (even in the pink tunnel—we thought he’d be there for sure!)
5 PM: Our organizers pack up. It’s been a long day, and scheduling 150 constituent visits is hard work. We can’t wait to round up all of the responses we received from our lobbyists today, and also send all of these notes to Senator Toomey.
The moral of the story is this: we’re still looking for Senator Toomey. We’re going to send him all of the notes everyone wrote yesterday, but we still need folks reaching out to him to talk to him about Planned Parenthood. 90,000 people across the commonwealth rely on PP for services such as STD testing and treatment, cancer screenings, and contraceptive care. Taking away funding for this would be catastrophic in most PA communities, as 50% of PP health centers are in underserved communities. Don’t believe us? Listen to this woman who works in Armstrong County, she’ll tell you.
We need to continue looking for Senator Pat Toomey, and demand that he hold town halls for his constituents to talk about important issues such as reproductive healthcare, immigration, and tax reform. Follow us on FB to learn more about how you can be a part of the PP Search Party. Lawmakers can hide, but we will seek them out to demand answers.