Pressure is growing on New Jersey Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen over a note that a constituent says imperiled her job. The Republican sent a fundraising letter to a board member of a local bank, with a hand-written postscript noting that a “ringleader” of an activist group worked there.
Saily Avelenda, a former senior vice president at Lakeland Bank, says she was called into her then-boss’s office and presented with the Frelinghuysen letter and a Politico story that quoted her as a member of an activist group called NJ 11th for Change.
But that story didn’t mention where she worked. We don’t know how Frelinghuysen and his staff knew, but it’s logical to suggest they went looking. If you Google Avelenda, you quickly see she worked at the bank.
Since WNYC broke the news Monday, the two largest newspapers in New Jersey published editorials expressing disgust over Frelinghuysen’s action.
One of the key questions is, to what extent did Frelinghuysen have business before his congressional committee that he could use as leverage against the bank? The Star Ledger has reported that many bank regulations come before the Appropriations Committee, which Frelinghuysen chairs. That’s because appropriations bills tend to have riders — those policy changes that get approved by attaching them to bills that are popular or necessary.
Yesterday, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington called for an investigation into the Frelinghuysen letter.
As for Avelenda, she told us she has no interest in suing anybody. All she wants is for her fellow constituents in New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District to know what their congressman did.