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U.S. House Speaker Meets Protests Outside Congressional Fundraiser In Sullivan County

WAMC/Allison Dunne

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner headlined a fundraiser for New York Congressman Chris Gibson Tuesday evening. The Sullivan County event drew about 75 protestors, who gathered to tell the two Republicans that their votes are hurting working families. 

Community group members and other residents stood across the street from the former headquarters of Cablevision Industries, where founder Alan Gerry and his wife Sandra hosted Speaker Boehner, along with people who paid as much as $2,600 to attend. Many of the protestors, including Kingston-based social worker and community organizer Arthur Zaczkiewicz, said the attraction was an opportunity to get Boehner’s attention.

Kat Fisher is a community organizer with Citizen Action in the Hudson Valley.

Though it was not the first time Boehner had attended a fundraiser for Gibson, Gibson says it reportedly was the first time Boehner had ever visited Sullivan County and the first time a House speaker had ever visited the county. Tuesday’s event raised more than $100,000 for Gibson’s 2014 re-election campaign, with 90 percent of the attendees from Gibson’s 19th District, which stretches across 11 counties. Invitations to the fundraiser were accompanied by a letter from Gibson citing a potential challenge from a near billionaire. That would be Sean Eldridge, Democrat and Ulster County resident, and founder of Kingston-based Hudson River Ventures. In Gibson’s letter, he says the funds would help him rebut the negative attacks that are coming and win decisively again. Here’s Gibson after the fundraiser.

Kathleen Taylor, who works for Ulster BOCES and is a teachers’ union member, says she wants to give Gibson the benefit of the doubt, but has reservations.

Taylor and Sullivan BOCES employee Patrick McCarthy say that while they have not agreed with most of Gibson’s votes, they did send him a thank you note for his votes on the following.

Mary Clark is regional director of the Southern Tier for Citizen Action. After the protest, she was planning to continue to deliver her message in Binghamton, where she says Boehner was headed to dine in one of the area’s finer restaurants. First, though, she had a message for Gibson.

Gibson says he was unable to stop because of meetings, but his door has been and continues to be open.

Fundraiser host Alan Gerry also founded Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, as part of an effort to stimulate growth in Sullivan County. Congressman Gibson says he is all the more humbled by Gerry’s hosting the fundraiser—Gerry had previously supported Democratic Congressman Maurice Hinchey, who retired earlier this year.

Tracy Givens is with the Southern Dutchess NAACP. She wants Gibson to turn away from his fellow Republicans.

Gibson says he does listen, and evaluates.

Despite cries from protestors that he votes lockstep with Speaker Boehner, Gibson points out he has voted independently roughly one-quarter of the time. Nevertheless, protestors say he and Boehner should be raising taxes on corporations and the wealthy and steering clear of budget cuts that hurt the rest of the population.

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