‘Paid’ activism claim by Rep. Mimi Walters staffer upsets Irvine town hall gatherers

IRVINE – Attendees of an anti-Donald Trump town hall meeting are upset that a staffer for their congresswoman, Rep. Mimi Walters, called them “paid activists.”

Organizer Deborah Newquist, a 66-year-old gerontologist who used to run an elder care consulting firm, said she wasn’t paid to host the Wednesday night meeting. The majority of the attendees were her fellow residents in University Hills, a housing development for UC Irvine faculty and staff and their families, she said.

About 120 people packed the University Hills community center for the town hall, demanding that Walters take a stand against the new presidential administration.

They voiced concerns about health care and environmental and immigration issues, but were united in their frustration with Trump. Because Walters was absent, they took straw polls and wrote down questions for her to be delivered to her office.

Walters didn’t attend the event, and her spokeswoman, Abigail Sigler, emailed the following statement to the Register six hours before the meeting to explain why Walters declined the invitation:

“Congresswoman Walters is in Orange County this week meeting with the people she represents. She firmly believes that meeting and listening to her constituents is the best (way to) represent them and advocate for them in Washington.

“She will not allow a small, vocal group of paid activists distract her from this fundamental responsibility. As she always has, she welcomes anyone with comments or concerns to contact her office.”

Sigler didn’t return the Register’s phone calls requesting evidence that attendees at Wednesday’s meeting were paid.

Instead, she stated in an email Thursday that protesters weren’t “organizing organically” and were following the online “Indivisible Guide,” which is put together by progressive former congressional staffers and analyzes the tea party’s successes against Barack Obama and details how to use those lessons against…

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