It is very hard to get a hold of Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey these days, so much so that for weeks, women have been gathering outside the Republican legislator’s Philadelphia office on Tuesdays to protest a wide range of issues, including his anti-abortion views and willingness to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Angela York-Craine, organizer of the Tuesdays with Toomey group, told the Philly Voice that the senate staff is “not polite anymore.”
“They’re not willing to see us, ducking us every week. We’ve gotten no real response whatsoever,” she said, adding that the “doors are preemptively locked to keep constituents out.”
With the upcoming confirmation vote of education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos, the level of anger is rising. DeVos is a billionaire Republican donor who lacks any experience in education policy, favors privatization of schools with little accountability, and wants to advance “God’s Kingdom” through her work. According to the Center for American Progress, the DeVos family has given $4 million to the senate committee vetting her. Democrats need just one more Republican to flip in order to successful block DeVos’s confirmation. Toomey, who is among the politicians DeVos has donated to in recent years, has pledged to vote for DeVos, is considered by at least one congressional democrat as the “best option” for blocking DeVos.
Pennsylvania educator Katherine Frtiz has now started a GoFundMe account to raise money for Toomey with the hope of “buying” his vote back from DeVos for $55,800—the same amount, she says, that DeVos has donated to Toomey. “Our education system shouldn’t be ‘pay-to-play,’ and neither should our democracy,” the GoFundMe reads. So far, the effort has raised over $16,000. The proceeds are, of course, not really going to Toomey. Fritz says she will donate them to Camp Sojourner, the Pennsylvania Arts Education Network, and the Children’s Literacy Initiative.
The point, though, is to find a way to get through to the senator. “I’ve been making phone calls nearly every day since the election, and find that I’m frequently unable to get ahold of a staffer at Senator Toomey’s office to comment on an issue,” Fritz told Jezebel. “The phone lines are frequently busy and the voicemails are often full. When I am able to speak with a staffer, they are universally polite and patient, but I’m calling each district office every day, sometimes more than once a day, and I’m getting through maybe one in every three days. I started sending faxes when the phone lines were just too busy.” (Toomey is currently the most-faxed member of Congress).
Toomey spokesperson spokesman E.R. Anderson confirmed to the Huffington Post that Toomey is receiving more calls than usual. “Senator Toomey’s staff in both Pennsylvania and Washington are taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach in answering as many calls as possible while also attending to other responsibilities, such as helping veterans, seniors, and attending to legislative concerns,” Anderson said. “Voicemail accounts are being emptied regularly, but with call volume as heavy as it is, mailboxes do fill quickly.”
I tried to get some answers from Toomey’s office, and this is what happened when I called them around 4 PM on Thursday:
- Philadelphia- busy signal
- Harrisburg- busy signal
- Pittsburgh - went to voicemail, mailbox is full
- Johnstown - busy signal
- Allentown- voicemail, mailbox is full
- Erie- busy signal
- DC- goes straight to voicemail
Have YOU been able to reach Sen. Toomey?