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U.S. Rep. John Katko

U.S. Rep. John Katko visited Cayuga County for a conversation with local business leaders Wednesday, but the event was closed to the public and the press. 

The roundtable discussion was held at Dickman Farms in Owasco. It was open to members of the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce. An email newsletter distributed by the chamber on the eve of the event included a notice that the discussion was closed to the media. 

Erin O'Connor, Katko's spokesperson, said it was their office, not the Chamber, that decided to make it a private event. 

"It was our call," she said by phone Wednesday. "But it was because that's the feedback we've gotten from business owners is that they're not going to be as candid or open with us if there is a camera in their face." 

O'Connor explained that they have held similar roundtable discussions with chambers of commerce in other counties. She said this is the fourth event Katko has participated in with a chamber of commerce in the 24th Congressional District. 

The previous roundtable discussions were closed to the public and the press, according to O'Connor. 

The roundtable discussion in Owasco drew protesters affiliated with Speak Out Central New York, a Democratic-aligned group that has organized similar rallies against Katko, a two-term Republican who is up for re-election this year. 

O'Connor did share some details about the Auburn-area roundtable. The topics included agriculture, regulatory reform and the tax overhaul enacted late last year. 

Katko was one of four New York Republicans who voted for the tax plan, which slashed corporate and income tax rates. He has visited several central New York businesses to tout the benefits of the legislation. Earlier this month, he held a press conference at Dot Foods in Salina to outline how the tax measure has helped the company. 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.