Press coverage of Congresswoman Barbara Comstock reached a fevered pitch last week, as constituents across the district came out in force to demonstrate their desire for her to hold a Town Hall, and rally to spread awareness of Comstock’s ultra-conservative voting record. This included the unveiling of a crowd-funded billboard placed in Winchester, and daily demonstrations outside and inside the Congresswoman’s office in Sterling.
“We get that we might never agree, we might never change your mind,” said district resident and local Indivisible member, Jan Hyland. “But this is still a huge part of your job, and the less you engage with us, the more distrust there is.” Hyland was there to raise awareness of Comstock’s continued refusal to hold a Town Hall and to highlight her 100% Trump-aligned voting record.
News media who sought comments from the beleaguered Congresswoman’s office received a canned statement from her spokesman and Deputy Chief of Staff, Jeff Marschner, who responded, “The congresswoman has held two telephone town halls where she reached approximately 9,000 constituents and will hold more. She and her staff have also met with hundreds of constituents at small group and individual meetings in our offices in Sterling, Winchester and on Capitol Hill.”
Marschner went on to single out Ms. Hyland, personally, by noting “Hyland, who works in public relations, was deputy press secretary for former Lt. Governor, U.S. Ambassador and current Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA-8)’s campaign for governor in 1997.”
This comment left many residents scratching their heads. Why would Comstock’s spokesman attempt to publicly discredit a long-time constituent, by pointing out her former career as a campaign staffer? (As so many of the residents are, in this area).
Really, who is Jeff Marschner, and how much sway does he have over Comstock?
Jeff Marschner held an interesting job prior to working for Congress. From 2010 to 2014, he was the Communications Director for the ultra-right wing PAC, Citizens United. (Yes, the same Citizens United responsible for loosening the McCain-Feingold Act that prevented corporations and unions from paying for political ads made independently on behalf of political candidate campaigns.) They won their Supreme Court case right as Marschner was coming aboard the organization as their spokesman.
As communications director, Marschner was responsible for providing statements to the media on behalf of Citizens United, particularly for the movies they produce. One movie they produced, along with Breitbart, (yes, Breitbart), was called “Occupy Unmasked,” in which they sought to portray Occupy Movement demonstrators as “not a spontaneous event that sprouted up in downtown Manhattan, but a methodically planned uprising carefully organized by unions, left-wing activists and even members of the mainstream media.”
Steve Bannon, the director of “Occupy Unmasked,” told Fox News “Whenever we screened this, the people’s reaction was the same. They had no idea what was behind this movement. This was not done spontaneously. This was community organized.” [emphasis added]
Well, then. This is the attitude Mr. Marschner brought with him when he went to work for Barbara Comstock. Now he’s her Deputy Chief of Staff, and spokesman. Now it’s his job to discredit community members for organizing to inform their fellow residents about Comstock’s decidedly draconian, right-wing voting record. Community organized = inauthentic and spontaneous, and is therefore unworthy of respect.
The attack-dog style against the Occupy Movement may have suited Steve Bannon’s needs, but it will most assuredly backfire if used on the citizens of the 10th District of Virginia. Marschner should be careful not to make his and Comstock’s politics personal against individual district constituents.
Jan Hyland, for her part, is proud to have worked for Rep. Beyer, twenty years ago. She responded, “My experience working for someone like Don Beyer showed me how much effort most elected officials put into communicating with constituents.”
As for Marschner’s work history and his attempt to discredit her, Hyland believes it’s a cautionary tale. “We now have insight into why she stonewalls constituents,” she observes. “And we have many more questions about who [Comstock] listens to, and who she is really serving.