Unbelievably, today we reached call 600 to the offices of Congressman "Silent Joe" Donnelly without having received the courtesy of any response - returned call, email, form letter, telegram, hug-o-gram...nothing. To mark this momentous demonstration of just what being in Washington can do to a person's sense of accountability to their constituents, we thought it would be appropriate to remind listeners and readers of this sad saga - from start to finish.
Believe it or not, Congressman “Silent Joe” Donnelly has not always been silent when it comes to the listening audience of the Peter Heck Radio Show. In fact, Congressman Donnelly appeared twice on the program in its early years (and his early years in Congress).
It all started in 2006, when Silent Joe was elected by the good people of the then-gerrymandered 2nd Congressional District in Indiana. After running a successful campaign against then incumbent Chris Chocola that accused the Republican of not being the Congressman for all his constituents – Democrat, Republican or Independent – Donnelly held a victory party in Kokomo, IN that was open to the public. Peter decided to go.
As Silent Joe greeted the crowd, Peter waited patiently in line and was warmly received by the newly elected Congressman even after Peter had informed him that he had supported the incumbent Chocola. Donnelly said to Heck in front of a crowd of onlookers that he was going to Washington to represent all of his constituents, not just the Democrats. Keeping the exchange brief, Peter shook Donnelly’s hand and told him that he hoped Donnelly would remain true to his campaign promises to represent the traditional pro-family, pro-life values of his district even in the face of a hostile party leadership. Donnelly’s response now seems just a tad peculiar: “I will, and I want you to hold me accountable.”
That’s exactly what Peter attempted to do when he hosted Donnelly on his radio show twice in the months that followed. After the first interview, the Donnelly camp seemed so pleased with the opportunity to be on the program that Donnelly’s press secretary – then a woman by the name of Samantha Slater – contacted the radio show to establish a standing, monthly interview.
That lasted one month.
In the second interview (little did anyone know at the time it would be the final interview), Peter pressed the Congressman on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) which was being pushed by homosexual activists and contained numerous threats to the rights of churches and the individual rights of conscience of Christian believers. Donnelly was non-committal. When Peter reminded him of his commitment to the pro-family position he had campaign on, the Congressman reassured that he would study and come to a prudent decision, and would be happy to call back after he decided and explain to listeners why he voted the way that he did. Congressman Donnelly voted with his Democrat Party leadership – and the homosexual activists – over his Christian constituents. He also never called back.
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For a few years, the relationship sat dormant other than a few random interview requests that Peter made to Ms. Slater, only to be ignored. That is until Congressman Donnelly held a townhall meeting in Kokomo, IN during the raucous debate over the ObamaCare legislation. Peter was in the crowd that day and heard the Congressman stammer through denials that he was supporting the bill. You can read the radio show’s report on that afternoon event here.
When Donnelly voted with his party leadership for the legislation despite his assurances that afternoon in Kokomo, Peter decided to begin calling the Congressman’s office daily to press for the Congressman to come on the show and explain to his constituents the reason for his betrayal. After several weeks of calling and leaving messages, it became apparent that the Congressman’s Press Secretary was under strict orders from the Congressman himself not to return phone calls to Peter. After all, there’s no way a Press Secretary or even Chief of Staff would make such a risky decision as to ignore a member of the media with access to the airwaves without getting the Congressman’s approval first.
Understanding how unbelievable it was that a man who had campaigned for office on the claim that his predecessor was not responsive enough to those he disagreed with, would then turn around within just a couple years of being in Washington and become the very Congressman he campaigned against, Peter made the decision to begin airing the phone calls live. Hundreds of calls were made and hundreds of messages left every day of the radio show. The Congressman’s staff, when confronted, has blown off the outrageous nature of the Congressman’s silence by calling it a “radio publicity joke.” Actually, the only joke has been the one the Congressman has made of his claims to be responsive to all his constituents.
Several months ago, approaching the 300 phone call/message mark, Peter decided to stop wasting valuable air time to expose the Congressman’s betrayal of constituents. The calls have continued, and now have topped 600. This despite the repeated assurances from Peter in messages and on air that the moment he receives even the simple courtesy of a returned phone call declining an interview, he will cease all calls.
This is the sad saga of “Silent Joe”: A man who went to Washington prepared to represent all his constituents, but instead has turned into the perfect representation of what we all know about Washington, in his silent shame.