Monday, May 31, 2010

Rep. Sam Graves: Kill the campaign mailers

From the Parkville Luminary

“Our nation is at a fiscal crossroads, and tough decisions must be made.”—Rep. Sam
Graves, in a mailing recently sent out to his constituents.

Rep. Graves, for once, you and I agree on something—the need to curb spending. I’ve got a way that you, Mr. Graves, can take a symbolic yet important step in the right direction: stop sending mailers to your constituents.

According to House documents studied by KSDK-TV (St. Louis), Sam Graves wasted $98,627 taxpayer dollars on mass mailings, phone calls, and electronic messages to his constituents last year. These mass communications by Congress to 500 or more constituents at a time cost Americans a whopping $45.5 billion dollars in 2009. ( ).

Now, I know what Graves and his congressional cronies will say. They’ll claim that it is vitally important to stay in touch with their constituents, and that mailings are a great way to do this. He might have had a point 20 years ago. But with the advent of the Internet, interested and engaged constituents need look no further than Mr. Graves’ website ( or any of a thousand of other reliable sources about Graves specifically or Congress in general.

The use of these mailings, called franking, is especially questionable during an election year. In fact, one expert, Pete Sepp of the National Taxpayer’s Union, argues that such mailings should be banned during an election year. "Content restrictions, while minimally helpful, really haven't solved the ultimate problem, which is that mass communications can serve as very favorable publicity for incumbents that challengers have to pay money to counter,'' he said. ( ).

Two mass mailing sent out by Graves, one in April and another in May, are especially blatant examples of the use of the franking privilege by an incumbent. A large slick April mailing lists Mr. Graves’ legislative initiatives on one side. These are as innovative as they are controversial. Imagine—Graves favors small business job creation and investing in tomorrow’s jobs. Sounds like the same kind of platitudinous hogwash that one expects to hear in campaign commercials.

In fairness, the mailer also discusses “making the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts permanent”. Though you’d never know it from reading this mailing, at least this is controversial, since Bush’s 2001 and 2003 tax cuts primarily benefited the wealthy. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “The tax cuts have conferred the most benefits, by far, on the highest-income households — those least in need of additional resources — at a time when income already is exceptionally concentrated at the top of the income spectrum.” ( )

On the flip side of Graves’ April campaign mailer is an unscientific survey designed to generate only the answers that Mr. Graves wants to hear.

To save a little postage, let me respond now to a few of the “controversial” questions on your survey, Mr. Graves:
1. Would you like to see across the board federal spending cuts? Of course not. It’s a matter of priorities. Start by ending the wars, and save billions.
2. Should congress vote to renew the 2001 and 2003 middle class tax cuts? Making the Bush tax cuts permanent would benefit mostly the wealthy. 39% of the benefits of making the cuts permanent would go to the richest 1% of the population. (Paul Krugman column, 5-16-10). No tax cuts for the rich, please.
3. Should Congress’ priority be to reduce the size of the deficit or trying to stimulate the economy with new spending? Both. You voted against the stimulus, but where would we be without it? It worked.

Your slick May mailer featured more of the same—Republican boilerplate on fiscal health, providing tax relief, and creating jobs. The congressman is pictured several times sporting a hardhat. All that’s missing is Mr. Graves kissing babies.

Yes, it is time to cut the deficit. Mr. Graves. You can start by not squandering any more of our money on these thinly veiled campaign mailings.

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