There are congressmen you can hit and some that you just can't criticize. With deep pockets and deeper connections, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J., is the latter. Unfortunately for Saily Avelenda, nobody told her until it was too late.
Formerly a full-time legal counsel at a local bank and a part-time political activist, Avelenda became involved with a protest group after the election, pushing her congressman to hold town halls. That civic engagement ultimately ended up with her resigning her job.
Frelinghuysen sent a fundraising form letter in March to a board member of Lakeland Bank in New Jersey. Standard fare for Republican form letters, it warned about forces conspiring "to put a stop to an agenda of limited government, economic growth and stronger national security." But this copy of the mailer was notable because of a small blue asterisk and short note at the end.
"P.S. One of the ringleaders works in your bank!", Frelinghuysen scrawled at the bottom in blue ink, setting in motion a series of events that ended with Avelenda's resignation.
Though Avelenda wasn't fired, after her boss came into her office with the letter and a news article quoting her, it became clear she couldn't work at the local bank anymore. "Needless to say," she told WNYC, "that did cause some issues at work that were difficult to overcome."
An unfortunate series of events, the whole episode demonstrates the dangers of political activism. Sadly, it could've been avoided with just a little research.
Digging through FEC records would reveal that one bank board member, Joseph O'Dowd, is a Frelinghuysen donor. A quick Google search would explain how the Frelinghuysen family became the seventh most prominent U.S. political dynasty in history. And review of Wikipedia would show that the Frelinghuysen chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
In short, Avelenda should've known who she was messing with before deciding to foolishly exercise her First Amendment rights.
Then again, maybe Frelinghuysen, arguably the most powerful lawmaker currently representing the Garden State, shouldn't have targeted one of his constituents for her political speech.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.