Kelly Gallaher, a key local leader in President Obama's campaign, wrote an email to members of Community for Change laying out plans for the group to attend Ryan's listening sessions on health care reform.
The email was faxed Aug. 21 from the Yard Arm Bar and Grill to Ryan's office. The exact same fax, identified by Ryan's fax number handwritten and circled across the top, appeared on RedState.com and Milwaukee radio host Mark Belling's website.
The fax included Gallaher's email address and home phone and cell phone numbers. As a result, Gallaher and Racine's Community for Change have received threatening calls and emails from people all over the country opposed to health care reform.
Gallaher complained about the email to Ryan's staff on Tuesday, and a new version of the fax with Gallaher's personal information was redacted was posted on RedState.com and Belling's website. (You can see the redacted PDF here.)
UPDATE, Aug. 30: Community for change has posted its version of the incident, and copies of the original fax as well as the redacted version. We've put the image of the two faxes at the bottom of this post.But the damage was done. Gallaher was still receiving calls Thursday and participants at Ryan's recent listening sessions openly intimidated Gallaher as she attempted to promote a counterpoint to Ryan's stances on reform.
During Ryan's listening session on Thursday, Ryan Gleason, of Community for Change, questioned Ryan on his office's role in working with RedState.com to spread Gallaher's personal information. Ryan denied a role in the incident, despite Gleason showing him the email faxed to his office was the same email that appeared on RedState.com.
Conservatives around the country held up Gallaher's email as an example of Democrats trying to "disrupt" listening sessions on health care reform. Ryan himself said Gallaher's efforts to "overwhelm" the forums threatened civil discourse, which was ironic given Gallaher's treatment at earlier forums.
Conner Sweeney, Ryan's press secretary, said after Thursday's listening session that he had no specifics on the fax or how it ended up on RedState.com.
Ryan's listening session Thursday at Roma Lodge drew a packed crowd with police turning away hundreds of people because the building was already over capacity. (A Roma Lodge employee turned this RacinePost reporter away at the door despite letting in a JT photographer a minute earlier. To Sweeney's credit, he tried to vouch for me, but the Roma Lodge employee refused to agree.)
One person was kicked out of the listening session. Miles Kristin, of Racine, grabbed the microphone from a speaker and attempted to ask Ryan if the country would have more money for health care if it wouldn't have invaded Iraq. Ryan cut off Kristin and had him removed.
Outside of the forum, Kristin described himself as an "independent activist" who was neither a Democrat nor Republican. He said he had no stance on health care reform, other than to say whatever is passed will favor corporations over people.
Meanwhile, dozens of cars approached the forum hoping to get in to hear Ryan talk. But authorities started turning people away at 1 p.m. - a half hour before the session was scheduled to begin. Ryan's staff moved the forum to Roma Lodge after initially scheduling the session for Gateway Technical College in Racine. (One political veteran noted it was an odd move because Roma Lodge does not allow women to be full members. For that reason, campaigns generally avoid the club for events.)
Inside the forum, it's safe to say a majority of the crowd joined Ryan in opposing Obama's proposed health care reform. It's also safe to say the time and location (mid-day, the middle of Mount Pleasant) stacked things in favor of retirees and people who can get away from a job for awhile. Several older residents stopped to give the latest Obama zinger (Do you know why Obama's plane is going to crash? It has two left wings.) or to accuse the president of being a communist-socialist foreigner determined to fire every doctor and nurse in the country.
But for all that, Ryan played it cool. He's quick to say reform is needed, he just doesn't think Obama's plan is the way to go. The Janesville Republican is so smooth even liberals said after the listening session they were applauding at least some of his comments.
But given the treatment of Gallaher's email, it's also clear Ryan is ready to play hardball with anyone speaking up in favor of Obama's plan. Here's one of the hundreds of emails Gallaher received after her personal information was sent around the country:
Update: Here's a transcript of Gleason's exchange with Paul Ryan at Thursday's listening session.If one of your uneducated, government dependent, whining assholes lays one hand on me, comes within 3 feet of me or shouts anyone down, they better get off their lazy asses and find a job, because they will need health insurance after I am done with them.I am not putting up with you people any more. You people have absolutely no clue what is going on. Every one of you is so co-dependent on a nanny state it isn't even funny. Some of you should learn how to think instead of just reading and repeating. You might be amazed what you find out.Once again, keep your assholes away from me, or they will be gumming their food for months.You have been warned.
Unknown Speaker: I’d like to introduce my friend Ryan Gleason (RG).
Paul Ryan (PR) OK That’s interesting. Ryan, how many friends do you have in the audience?
RG Hi Thank you for taking our question. My name’s Ryan Gleason. I’m with…
PR I’m just kinda curious. How many people do you have helping you with that? Gotcha
RG We have an important issue I think that needs to be addressed. That’s why I’m here to…My name’s Ryan Gleason, I’m with Community for Change.
PR Everybody please. I know there are organizations and groups coming here being represented. They have just as much of a right to talk as anyone else does. Ryan I know you‘ve got differing opinions. It is your mic … I want to hear it. But if you don’t mind keep It kinda brief so we can get to other people.
PR Community for change, is that it?.
RG And we’re here because we organize around the community. We are unpaid volunteers. And we just care about reform quite honestly as does Congressman Paul Ryan. What we’ve witnessed in this past week though has been something that’s been very unsettling.
Kelly Gallaher which I partner with on many of these events that we do, has endured a character assassination from a couple of blogs and we’ve discovered that that information actually came from your staff.
PR Uh..I’m not so sure about that. We’ve gotten. Is this this email that’s going around?
RG There is en email.
RG This was posted on Red states blog. That we were going to come here and disrupt your entire …
PR Yes I saw that email.
RG Which we have not. Our intention was to come here and ask questions, get people to come here and get involved.
PR Do you have a question or a comment.
RG What happened was your campaign office.. your staff ..and I have the fax right here with the number on it ..sent this to Red State and Mark Belling and since then Kelly has been getting..her personal information was on this thing . She’s been getting phone calls, being harassed from all over the country and our email box has filled up. She cannot even be here tonight.
PR Allright so..I’ve read this email. Gotten 4 or 5 copies from constituents at town hall meetings about this emailthis Email has gone viral. It has come to us from many different sources. We’ve been asked for copies of it. We’ve redacted pieces of it. And yes we have received this. And we have shared this with people who have asked us for it. This has been going around. We got this from some in the media.
RG Went to the Yardarm and talked to the lady that sent it to your office. I’ll tell you what
PR Let me just say this. Point is yes there was an email that was going around that threatened…um um it wasn’t a very kindly written email, we’ll put it that way. And it wasn’t an email that led one to think that we were going to have civil discourse on this issue. It is because of the way the email was written. Because of the kind of uncivil discourse it was proposing. Shouting, overwhelming, things like this.
None of those things are in the email. I have it right here.
I’ve seen two versions of this email. I’ve seen the version which was cleaned up and I’ve seen the original version which has been sent to us. The point is.
It is fine with me if organizations …whether it is OFA DPW, C4C it’s perfectly fine with me if you want to come to our town hall meetings. If you’re a constituent and even if you’re not. You’re invited.
The problem is…Let’s not try and disrupt people …let’s not try and shout up other people. Let’s give every citizen an equal chance to have access to their representative to state their views. That’s exactly what we’re doing here today.
[New voice…more money for health care….
Crowd noise…join the army…get a job]