U.S.

Republican Congressman Targeted Local Progressive Activist by Contacting Her Employer

Republican Congressman Targeted Local Progressive Activist by Contacting Her Employer

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A New Jersey woman who joined a group critical of a Republican congressman and President Donald Trump's policies says she quit her job after the congressman referred to her in a fundraising letter to her employer.

Frelinghuysen sent a fundraising letter in March to a board member, Joseph O'Dowd, of Lakeland Bank, where Avelenda served as senior vice president and assistant general counsel, with a special handwritten note.

Caldwell told WNYC the letter caused issues at work and that she was pressured because of her politician activism, eventually leading to her resigning.

The New Jersey Congressman has been under criticism from constituents for avoiding town hall meetings, having last held one in 2013.

The letter came attached with a news article quoting Ms Avelenda as a member of the group called NJ 11th for Change, made up of nearly 7,000 constituents in Mr Frelinghuysen's district. The group has held weekly protests at Frelinghuysen's offices in New Jersey and Washington, D.C. and held an empty-chair town hall after he refused to face his constituents.

The form letter, on campaign stationery, asks Frelinghuysen's supporters to donate two years ahead of his next election because he is under attack.

But at the bottom, in blue pen, Frelinghuysen wrote by hand: "P.S".

Frelinghuysen has extensive power on Capitol Hill: As the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, the representative has broad influence on what Congress spends money on.

Certainly, she has grounds for a lawsuit for the hostile work environment that the congressman's letter and the actions of bank officers created. Frelinghuysen has also complained about the amount of phone calls his office has received recently, according to WNYC.

"We are outraged and alarmed by Representative Frelinghuysen's intimidating action against an ordinary constituent, as reported this morning by NPR", 11th for Change wrote on its Facebook page. Attached was an article in which Avelanda was quoted. "I'm not suggesting people don't have a right to speak and let their views be known, but some of this is highly orchestrated and it's unfortunate".

Subsequently, Avelenda had to explain herself in a written statement to the bank's CEO, she said.

"I thought my Congressman put them in a situation, and put me in a really bad situation as the constituent, and used his name, used his position and used his stationery to try to punish me". She says the pressure she received over her political involvement was one of several reasons she made a decision to leave.

Frelinghuysen's office has denied to WNYC that there was any kind of political pressure intended with his personal note to Avelenda's employer. "He was in no way involved in any of the bank's business and is unaware of any of the particulars about this employee's status with the bank".

Lakeland Bank isn't commenting, according to WNYC.


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