Pressured by rivals, Sean Bielat names employer
Sean Bielat wants you to know where he works. For most candidates, this would not be much of a revelation. But for Bielat, a Norfolk Republican who is running in the Fourth Congressional District, where, precisely, he earns his living has been something of a mystery.
He refused to disclose the name of the online political start-up where he serves as chief executive during a debate this week, drawing heated criticism from his rivals, who accused him of a lack of transparency.
On Thursday, Bielat said he had had a change of heart.
“It’s One Click Politics,” he said.
Oneclickpolitics.com allows voters to contact members of Congress about any issue, with a prewritten message, one sponsored by an advocacy group, or one they write on their own.
Bielat said he wanted to keep the name of the firm separate from his campaign, since the website is supposed to be nonpartisan.
But after his Republican rivals, Brookline psychiatrist Elizabeth Childs and Fall River dentist David Steinhof, pounced on his secrecy, Bielat said he decided to reverse course.
“It was a distraction,” he said, with the potential to hurt both his campaign and the business, which is still getting off the ground.
Aaron D’Elia, Childs’s campaign manager, said it was great that Bielat revealed the name of his employer, and he hopes he will disclose its investors.
“What was the big deal?” he said. “It’s pretty much standard operating procedure to disclose who’s paying your paycheck.”
Steinhof applauded Bielat.
“I’m happy to see this has come out, and it’s going to clear the air,” he said. “My concern was the public would have perceived this as some kind of way to hide funds, and that would have given all of us a black eye.”
Visitors to One Click Politics are greeted with a set of messages they can send to Congress, all of them conservative. Examples include, “Ask Eric Holder to step down!” and “Pledge to Repeal ObamaCare and Pass Real Health Care Reform!”
But Bielat said the messages would be rotated to include left-leaning issues, as well.
The company was founded by Paul T. Ryan, chief technology officer of the Yellow Pages Group, along with two others.
Bielat, who ran unsuccessfully against Barney Frank in 2010, joined the venture in August and oversees two full-time employees. He worked as an executive at iRobot Corp. in Bedford from 2006 to 2009 and served on active duty in the US Marine Corps from 1998 to 2002. If he wins a seat in Congress, he said, he will resign from One Click Politics to focus on his duties in Washington.
In the meantime, he said, he will not be shy about promoting the company, by name.
“I’m not hiding anything,” he said. “It’s turning lemons into lemonades.”