The Rodney Report: Influence, Intimidation and Preserving Democracy

The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's Weekly Analysis of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's Words and Deeds.

  • Comey Fired, Rodney....Nonchalant
  • Breakfast Without Rodney
  • Frelinghuysen’s Post-AHCA Tele-Town Hall
  • Challenging the Frelinghuysen Status QuoFrelinghuysenMonopoly--PamWye-2.jpg


Features of our democracy that we typically take for granted — like the ability to question our elected officials and hold them to account — can suddenly look very shaky, as recent events have demonstrated in D.C. and closer to home. The President abruptly fired an FBI chief who was in the middle of investigating Oval Office ties to Russian influences. And as a couple of local developments demonstrated, NJ-11’s Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen hasn’t been handling independent thinkers so well, either.

‘One of the Ring Leaders’: Rodney Puts On The Pressure

This morning, National Public Radio ran a piece by reporter Nancy Solomon, focusing on a handwritten note sent by Rep. Frelinghuysen to the employer of his constituent Saily Avelenda, a member of NJ 11th For Change. (The story quickly gained major traction, being picked up by the AP, The New York Times, the Washington Post, The Independent (UK), Politico and, among many others.)

As a result of this letter, Avelenda was subjected to intense and unwelcome scrutiny about her personal views, directly contributing to her decision to resign her job. NJ 11th For Change is outraged and alarmed by Frelinghuysen’s intimidating action against a constituent who opposes him politically. Has he used such actions before, and (a disquieting thought) will he use them in the future? We would like a statement guaranteeing that citizens will not be subjected to the targeting that Saily Avelenda experienced..


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5/9/17 Telephone "Town Hall" Transcription

Rodney Frelinghuysen Telephone Town Hall 5/9/17

Transcribed from

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Frelinghuysen targets activist with a letter to her employer

We are outraged and alarmed by Representative Frelinghuysen’s intimidating action against an ordinary constituent, as reported this morning by NPR.   

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Rodney Redux: The Really Green Challenger of 2000

By Liz Haigney-Lynch

Rodney Redux is an occasional series that explores Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's career and family history as a member one of New Jersey's oldest political dynasties. 

image616607.jpgOn one level, it was reality TV, pure and simple. “Ficus for Congress” was an installment of activist/documentarian Michael Moore’s TV series “The Awful Truth,” which ran 1999-2000 on the Bravo cable network. In his episode of June 21, 2000, Moore detailed his efforts to run a ficus plant in the NJ-11 primary against the unopposed incumbent, one Rodney Frelinghuysen.

But “Ficus for Congress” was also the kind of episodic political theater Moore perfected in documentaries such as "Roger & Me." This time, his target was the fog of complacency and apathy resulting from “safe” congressional districts, when elections, particularly primaries, become foregone conclusions and participation feels meaningless. With the potted ficus plant, Moore hit upon a perfect metaphor for the numbing effect of safe seats. A utilitarian, unremarkable décor placeholder – what could be better?

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The Rodney Report: Frelinghuysen's Devastating Flip on Health Care

The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's Weekly Analysis of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's Words and Deeds.

  • Pre-existing Conditions and High Risk Pools
  • Medicaid Cuts in New Jersey, Ending Special Assistance in Schools
  • Employer-based Plans: Lifetime Caps & Inequity
  • Kick the Can
  • Rodney & The Omnibus BillFrelinghuysenMonopoly--PamWye-2.jpg
  • The Week According to Rodney


Rep. Frelinghuysen voted “yes” on the GOP’s American Health Care Act (AHCA) last week, a drastic about-face from his public statements on an earlier version of the bill — and a violation of the promise he made to NJ 11th members during an in-person meeting in his DC office, which was captured on video. In a statement released after the vote, Frelinghuysen assured the public that his previous concerns about the bill were assuaged by two amendments that, in fact, do nothing to reduce the proposed $880 billion Medicaid cuts and little to protect those with pre-existing conditions.

Pre-existing Conditions and High Risk Pools

In a misleading statement on his website, Frelinghuysen claims that under the new bill, insurance companies cannot deny anyone coverage based on pre-existing conditions or use health status to set premiums, “Unless your state asks for and receives a waiver—a condition of which is the state having other protections in place for those with pre-existing conditions..As long as you've been continuously covered, you can't be charged more money,'' Frelinghuysen explained.

This is not exactly the case. The AHCA, as amended, enables states that obtain a waiver to construct a second pool of enrollees who had a gap in coverage, separating the healthy from the sick, and creating high-risk pools. While the amendment offers these states an additional $8 billion in federal funds through 2022, raising the total amount available for high risk pools to $138 billion, the Center for American Progress estimates that these pools are woefully underfunded. They would actually need another $200 billion to properly fund coverage for high-risk patients.

More than half of all Americans of all ages and three quarters over the age of 45 have pre-existing conditions. While there is not a specific AHCA list of pre-existing conditions, insurers would have leeway to raise premiums for a multitude of illnesses, which was banned under Obamacare (the American Healthcare Act). Before the ACA, insurance companies could deny coverage or charge higher rates for anything listed as a pre-existing condition. The lists were voluminous, including relatively minor ailments like acne, acid reflux and eczema, along with many traumas, terminal diseases and mental disorders.

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The Rodney Report: Votes vs. Rhetoric

The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's response to Representative Frelinghuysen’s Weekly E-newsletter 

  • The Push to War
  • Honored for 'Advocacy' of Latinos
  • STEM Education and the 2018 Budget
  • AHCA Silence and Conference CallsUnknown.jpeg


Controversy raged last week over the impending House vote on Trumpcare redux, but Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s newsletter avoided the subject entirely. Instead, he patted himself on the back for the successful passage of House Joint Resolution 99 to extend funding for federal agencies and programs until May 5. He also blamed Obama for Iranian nuclear proliferation and voiced his passionate support for STEM education — despite ominous signs he might approve budget cuts that would hobble scientific research and eliminate some of the very same STEM programs he applauds. In other news, Frelinghuysen proudly received an award from the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, which seemed untroubled by his paltry advocacy record and votes against immigrants over the years.

The Push to War

In his Friday E-News item titled "Obama Administration Concessions = Iranian Belligerence,''  Frelinghuysen castigates Obama for the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. He pointed to a recent Politico story, which cited federal investigators and prosecutors who angry at the administration for underplaying the threat posed by prisoners released to Iran. They believe the White House undermined both years spent pursuing Iranian arms dealers and their National Counter-proliferation Initiative. However, two years on, the non-partisan Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation believes that “this good deal is significantly better than the bad alternatives.”

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Stand Up for the People of Your District

Several D.C. political sources are reporting today that Speaker Paul Ryan threatened Rep. Frelinghuysen with the loss of his powerful Appropriations Chairmanship unless he flips his opposition to the AHCA and instead supports it. If the Congressman truly represents his constituents, he must face down Ryan’s threat and continue to oppose Trumpcare, which would be disastrous for New Jersey and the country.

This amended AHCA bill, endorsed by the conservative Freedom Caucus Republicans, is even worse than the late March effort that Frelinghuysen called "unacceptable." By allowing states to acquire waivers on core provisions of the current law, it essentially removes the most crucial and popular protections. 

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NJ 11th For Change Hosts Environmental Defense Forum: A Climate Changed-Focused Town Hall

By Liz Haigney-Lynch

Unknown.jpegAn Earth Day message worth repeating: Never underestimate the power of voters’ voices, especially with a planet on the line.

At an Earth Week Environmental Defense Forum hosted in Little Falls by NJ 11th For Change last week, talk revolved around policy challenges, threatened funding cuts and the growing impact of climate change. Across the board, speakers emphasized the vital role of concerned citizens.

Moderated by astrophysicist Matthew Buckley of Rutgers University, founder of the NJ March for Science, the panel included:

• Assemblyman John McKeon (27th District)
• Lori Heiger, Steering Committee member of Coalition Against the Pilgrim Pipeline (CAPP), Founder of #Get2Work, Member, NJ 11th For Change Research Team
• Mark Brownstein, climate and energy program, Environmental Defense Fund
• NYU climate scientist Sonali McDermid
• Dan Hartinger, Parks and Public Lands Defense Campaign, Wilderness Society
• Jamie Pang, policy specialist, Center for Biological Diversity
• Julia Somers, executive director, New Jersey Highlands Coalition

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The Rodney Report: Avoiding a Government Shutdown

The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's response to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's weekly newsletter.

  • Tax Reform Talk
  • Listening Tour
  • A 100th Day Shutdown?
  • March for Science


 In Friday’s newsletter, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen bemoaned “our broken tax code,’’ calling it “desperately in need of reform.’’ But until our president releases his tax returns, this is not a conversation any representative of the American people should be willing to have. We support Democrats who say they’ll refuse any action on tax reform until Trump makes his records available.

The public needs to know how Trump earns his income and whether he’s paid his fair share in taxes. We need to know if he has paid taxes to any foreign governments or has foreign bank accounts. We also need to know how he might benefit from his proposed reforms.

Frelinghuysen has suggested more than once that President Trump should release his tax info. The New York Times last week even included him on the list of GOP politicos who are pro disclosure. But Frelinghuysen has voted against legislative attempts that would compel Trump to release his taxes, denouncing efforts as “political theater.’’

We hope that Frelinghuysen will do more than pay lip service to transparency.

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The Rodney Report: Rodney Praises 'Decisive' Airstrike of Syria

The Rodney Report is NJ 11th for Change's response to Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen's weekly newsletter.

  • Syrian Airstrikes
  • Turning Away RefugeesFrelinghuysenMonopoly--PamWye-2.jpg
  • A Plan for North Korea?
  • Rodney and the War Machine

'While I am horrified by the deaths of so many innocent men, women, and children, I want to know how the president's strategic plans will change the course of this civil war. I cannot support any authorization unless and until my questions are answered fully. .... I don't think there is a great partisan divide. I think people just want to know what the president's plan is."

This was Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen’s 2013 response to President Obama’s request for congressional approval to use force against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad after sarin gas was dropped on a Damascus suburb. Frelinghuysen voted against approval, yet in his April 7th e-newsletter, he trumpeted his endorsement of Trump’s unsanctioned Syrian airstrike and condemned Obama-era policies toward North Korea.

Syrian Airstrikes

Congressman Frelinghuysen commends the president for acting “decisively” on Syria. We agree that Assad’s brutal use of chemical weapons is a criminal act and that the ongoing civil war is a “humanitarian crisis,” but unlike Frelinghuysen, we are alarmed that the president acted without seeking Congressional approval. We urge Frelinghuysen to demand the same answers from Trump he sought from Obama four years ago: “What is this president’s Syria policy? What’s the end game here? Are we going to war here? Or is this attack a one-off? We deserve to have answers. What are the real goals here?’’ They were reasonable questions in 2013 and are more urgent now. Whether or not good people agree that the recent air strikes were justified, there is much concern that this president should ever be given unilateral power to make war.


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