Despite hot issues, lawmakers meet public less

FORT DODGE, Iowa (AP) — Members of Congress are holding fewer in-person public gatherings with constituents than ever, relying far more on telephone and online forums.

The travel and planning to put together public town hall meetings are complicated, and in the end only a few people might come.

Conference calls are easy to set up, and can reach many times more people.

What’s behind the shift?

For one, in the summer of 2009, angry crowds mobbed lawmakers’ meetings to debate health care policy. And in 2011, there was the shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., at one of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords’ public appearances.

Congress was in recess last week, but members held few public sessions back home even with several hot issues in play, including immigration and the Internal Revenue Service scandal.

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