Each member of Congress is allowed a certain amount of federal taxpayer money to send correspondence to constituents touting his or her successes. Their major restriction, however, is that the mailers can't be sent 60 days before the general election so as to prevent taxpayer funds from giving an unfair edge over a non-Congressional opponent.
The franking privilege to send free mail using only the member's signature gets used by every member of Congress and is generally regarded as nothing more than a perk. But among members of Congress who campaigned on the federal government spending too much money, being too big and Washington needing changemakers to stop the blank checks that fund a deficit, the taxpayer-funded mailers get snatched up too.
Roll Call highlighted three elected officials, who are in vulnerable positions and tough re-elections, claiming they are just three of many members who take advantage of the franking rules. They left out, however, that the three most vulnerable Republicans seeking reelection are also huge supporters of the Tea Party movement.
“I meant what I said last year when I asked Eastern Iowans to send me to Washington to change business as usual in Congress," said Rep. Rod Blum (R-IA) in an op-ed for The Gazette. "Washington is run by career politicians ... who often care more about their careers than solving the tough problems that Americans want us to fix."
Blum then took more money than any other member of Congress to send out mailings to his district. What's worse is to compare Blum to his colleagues from his state. He spent $400,000 more than Iowa’s three other Representatives combined.
Rep. Frank C. Guinta (R-NH) appeared in a campaign ad when he ran in 2012, where he alleged that each child will owe $50,000 to pay down the national debt. "Washington politicians have run up a huge spending tab and left our kids the bill," he said.
Guinta signed Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge and supports giving corporations greater tax breaks. "Granite Staters sent me to Washington to reduce our $19 trillion national debt, burdening our struggling economy and children’s future," he said, after voting down the budget last year.
But when it came to spending taxpayer money on mail touting his conservative successes as a Congressman, Guinta was happy to hoover up $209,186 in 2015. Just a few years prior, in 2011, Guinta was the one who spent the most taxpayer money on self-promotional mail. In fact, he spent $164,650, more than any other member of Congress.
“There is a thin line between maintaining a rapport with one’s constituents and electioneering. There must be a more efficient and most importantly, less costly way to distribute these papers,” Guinta’s campaign website read according to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “I am running to eliminate waste and reel in unnecessary spending — unlike Carol Shea-Porter. This is a small example of how reduction in expenditures begins.”
Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) is a staunch Tea Party advocate, who believes Congress should reduce federal spending to 18 percent of GDP. That would mean a 16 percent decrease from literally every single agency from education to defense, as well as intelligence, where Hurd once worked. He supports cutting veterans benefits and slash Medicare funding for the elderly and children.
But Hurd is more than willing to spend taxpayer money on free mail to promote himself and his ideology. Roll Call quoted Rachel Holland, press secretary for Hurd, who said, “as a Representative for one of the largest geographic and rural districts in the country, Rep. Hurd utilizes a number of outlets to regularly communicate with constituents.” All paid for by those hefty budgets he advocates against.
All House members combined spent a total of $16 million in taxpayer money in the first quarter of 2016, the majority of which went to members whose elections look to be the most challenging to win.