House Members Spent Over $20 Million Dollars on Junk Mail

As Congress deals with rising complaints over junk mail clogging mailboxes, it might want to start by reducing its own contributions to the scourge. Last year, U.S. House members spent $20.3 million to spend unsolicited mail to constituents on subjects ranging from car care to advice on job interviews. It is one of the reasons why incumbents are so difficult to unseat — members have created a constructive public subsidy for campaigns, but only for incumbents.

The massive amount of junk mail sent by Congress amounts to 116 million pieces of mail in all.

Some offered advice on topics one would more commonly expect to see in a consumer-advice column.

“Keep your car properly maintained” to improve mileage, suggested Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., in a newsletter on how to deal with rising energy prices.

Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., offered tips on home improvements.

And Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., who lost her primary race last year, sent out a taxpayer-funded newsletter a few months before the election that included this simple observation:

“Convicted felons can vote,” she said, if “your” prison sentence has been served, parole or probation completed and fines paid. While campaigning, McKinney, who is black, noted that blacks make up a disproportionately large share of the prison population, which she said dilutes their voting strength.

A dozen House members spent more than $133,000 each to send 9.8 million pieces of mass mailings. Total cost? $1.8 million.

Sometimes the lawmakers’ taxpayer funded mailings topped what they paid for direct mail through their campaign funds.

Of the 64 House members with at least $100,000 in taxpayer-funded mailing expenses — and overwhelmingly for mass mailings — 42 were Republicans and 22 were Democrats, the AP review found.

In sharp contrast, 59 lawmakers in the 435-member House — 35 Republicans and 24 Democrats — spent nothing on mass mailings. They tended to be the more experienced House members, often with 14 or more years of service.

The study confirms that these mailings are working as a form of campaign financing that is exclusively available to incumbents.

The biggest senders in the AP analysis included freshmen in tight re-election fights and veterans who coasted to victory.

Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., had the most pieces of mass mailings: 1,257,972. His mass mailings’ cost of $171,286 was among the highest in the House, as was the overall cost of his franked mail, at $177,706.

Murphy, who advised constituents to maintain cars, was one of the House leaders in sending out bulk mail, with 1,003,836 pieces. The price tag: $165,650.

Among legislative leaders, the biggest spender was Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., who last fall became chairman of the House GOP Conference. He spent $133,053 to mail 844,336 pieces.

Other leaders in the last Congress and the current one were not big users.

The cost of postage is not the only expense for taxpayers. Printing and reproduction can add tens of thousands of dollars to a mailing’s cost. The printing cost for one mailing from McCotter was $30,259.

While Congress clearly should be communicating with voters, a great amount of these mailings is clearly thinly veiled campaigning and self-promotion. The only people who reign in this abuse, however, are the abusers themselves: Congress.

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One thought on “House Members Spent Over $20 Million Dollars on Junk Mail”

  1. This article on mail abuses could easily serve as a model for dozens of other wasteful practices that Congress and governmental agencies in general have grown accustomed. But … this is not where the story actually begins – the true starting point is when we, as citizens, casually pre-approve this continuous looting of National assets … in fact its built into our citizens’ lexicon. Employer withholding, the entire complexity of the IRS and the culture and industry built around it lend to the citizens’ ‘softening-up.’ It may not be a beating by Tony Soprano, but the effect is the same. We fork it over.

    When we Americans, end the moratorium on the Bill of Rights … perhaps a National discussion of Alexander Hamilton’s original objections to the Bill would help re-boot the collective mindset and tamp raging apathy. Hamilton’s objections had merit, “why disallow what has not been allowed?” – was his contention – considering the Bill of Rights from a literary perspective veers off course from the very first. It begins with Rights of Citizens and immediately the language changes to “No Government Shall ….” It is a document, in my humble opinion, that could use some considerable tightening up. While approaching a basic understanding of the Bill of Rights, it is quite disheartening to eventually realize that in one 15 minute meeting at Starbucks, Federal judges, even Supreme Court judges can treat the Bill of Rights as a menu where substitutions are permitted.

    Tea Parties notwithstanding, it seems that we treat our government representatives with more freedom and prerogative than we do our baby sitters. We hold them less responsible then the local car wash. And, we’ve permitted the government to treat a great deal of its citizenry with a lack of humanity and hope. Then again … in theory, in a Democratic Republic – we are the government. Perhaps if we cared about each other a little more than we care about our images – we would be in regular dialog with our elected representatives and future candidates. There’s always today.

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