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Dem Offices Across Country Remain Closed Due to Pandemic

and • April 8, 2022 5:00 am

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Dozens of elected Democrats still have their state and district offices in pandemic mode, locking constituents out of their taxpayer-funded government offices, a Washington Free Beacon investigation found.

Across the country, American taxpayers—who foot the bill for congressional district offices—attempting to visit their representatives are greeted by signs that tell constituents the government is locked to them. The Free Beacon in recent weeks found that at least eight Democratic senators locked their constituents out of their taxpayer-funded offices and that over two dozen House Democrats' in-district offices around the country are closed or inaccessible to constituents.

Meanwhile, many of the businesses surrounding them are completely open. In Las Vegas, for example, work from home was halted for city employees last March, and hospitality workers show up daily to cater to the hordes of tourists who drive the state's economy. Minutes from the bustling Las Vegas strip, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D., Nev.) has her government office closed to visitors.

These findings indicate that Democrats' office closures extend far beyond the U.S. Capitol, where a Free Beacon investigation last month found dozens of offices shuttered. Democrats in public statements have attempted to move past the pandemic, with President Joe Biden using last month's State of the Union address to urge Americans to get back to work.

The Democrats' office closures come as many elected officials are campaigning in-person and criss-crossing the country for in-person fundraisers. In New Hampshire, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D.) regularly hosts in-person campaign events but has her office closed due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19, according to a sign posted on her office door. Last month, she attended an indoor campaign event alongside Rep. Chris Pappas (D., N.H.). A Free Beacon source found Pappas's state offices also closed in the middle of the workday.

Government spending disclosures show that Pappas's office spends nearly $5,000 a month in rent for his district offices and an additional $255 a month for "district office parking."

Pappas's office denied the office is closed, disputing that the footage obtained by the Free Beacon from a Tuesday afternoon during business hours shows a closed and locked office door. A spokesman said the office was open for regular business hours on the day the Free Beacon‘s source visited.

The source said the office is telling a "blatant lie."

"I rang the doorbell, hung out for three to four minutes, then took the video," he said. "Why would the door be locked at 4:18 p.m. on a Tuesday if someone is there?"

In Cortez Masto's neighboring Arizona, Sen. Mark Kelly (D.)—whose Washington, D.C., office was open when the Free Beacon visited—had his Phoenix office closed and locked to constituents during business hours. Despite his office closures, Kelly has traveled for in-person fundraisers in San Francisco. In 2020, Kelly spent $136,223.83 of taxpayer money on office rent-related costs. His office told the Free Beacon that "our Phoenix office has been open to the public and staffed in person serving Arizonans" but would not say it was open five days a week or during the entire workday.

Meanwhile, much of Arizona has been functioning as normal. Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Doug Ducey (R.) has said he expects his own staff to come into the office every day "as long as they are healthy."

In Ohio, congressman Tim Ryan, who is running for Senate, had his in-district office closed. He spent $81,957.91 on rent-related costs last year. Despite Ryan keeping his Ohio office closed, he says he is running a campaign based on looking "people in the eye, tell[ing] them I give a damn about them." Even though his constituent office was closed, Ryan told local reporters that he is busy campaigning in-person.

"We're going to see people everywhere, meeting them and learning about their communities and what the opportunities are in these communities," Ryan said last month.

Hassan's and Ryan's offices did not respond to requests for comment.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) recently extended proxy voting in the House, which a Free Beacon analysis confirmed is regularly abused by Democratic members of Congress who claim they need proxy voters due to the coronavirus while they travel the country for political fundraisers and events with Biden. According to the Free Beacon analysis, Ryan proxy-voted dozens of times while he held in-person campaign events across Ohio.

Republicans are already using Democratic office closures, first reported by the Free Beacon, to make the case to voters that Democrats aren't working for the American people. Cortez Masto's likely Republican opponent, former Nevada attorney general Adam Laxalt, used Free Beacon footage of her closed Washington, D.C., office in a digital campaign targeting the absentee senator. His campaign is also targeting Cortez Masto with a microsite, NoShowMasto.com.

In Colorado, Republican Senate candidate Joe O'Dea used Free Beacon footage of Sen. Michael Bennet's (D.) closed D.C. office to argue it's time to close Bennet's office for good. It's not just Bennet's office in the Capitol that's closed, however. His taxpayer-funded constituent office in Denver is closed "until further notice" because of the "recent increase of COVID-19 cases." O'Dea told the Free Beacon that "the working people of this country, the people I'm going to represent in Washington, never stopped working."

Bennet's office told the Free Beacon that the sign from January telling Coloradans that Bennet's Denver office is closed has been taken down. Cortez Masto's office similarly told a local journalist that signs outside her offices that told Nevadans her team is still teleworking "were mistakenly left up" for months. Her office told the Free Beacon that despite her office closures, she has kept working.

The Free Beacon found that the offices of other Democrats, including Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas) and Cortez Masto's fellow Nevada senator, Jacky Rosen, were open to the public and staffed.

Update, April 8, 11:06 a.m.: A previous version of this story stated that the district office of Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D., N.Y.) was closed. Though a front door to the Newburgh, N.Y., building where his office is located is locked, there is a side entrance and a spokeswoman for Maloney says the office is open and staffed. We regret the error.