Republican Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (N.J.) signed and delivered a fundraising letter in March to the board member of a local bank highlighting the existence of activist groups whose "sole agenda is to reverse the results of the November election" and "to stop our Republican majority from making good on our promises." In a handwritten note at the bottom of the letter, Frelinghuysen warned the board member that an employee of the bank — and one of his constituents — was "one of the ringleaders" of such a group, NJ 11th for Change. WNYC reported the group had "been pressuring Frelinghuysen to meet with constituents in his district and oppose the Trump agenda."
Though Frelinghuysen's campaign office claimed the note was "brief and innocuous," the alert reportedly caused the employee, Saily Avelenda, to be "questioned and criticized for her involvement," WNYC said. Avelenda claims she was even asked "to write a statement" to her CEO. "Needless to say, that did cause some issues at work that were difficult to overcome," she said.
Avelenda, formerly a senior vice president and assistant general counsel at the bank, decided to resign. "I thought my congressman ... put me in a really bad situation as the constituent, and used his name, used his position, and used his stationery to try to punish me," she said.
Jordan Libowitz, spokesman for the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said the note was "certainly troubling." "Whether or not it breaks a criminal statute is one issue, but the very clear issue is that it appears that a member of Congress might be using his power to threaten someone's employment because of their political activities," Libowitz said. Becca Stanek