The Democratic majority in the House has tucked a $90 million increase into the staff budgets of members in anticipation of the 2010 Congressional elections
. The 15% increase will be allocated equally to each member and may be used for any legal purpose the member wishes within his own office. But some are questioning the need for the increase in a time of economic uncertainty and the dubious legality of the expenditure it will likely fund.
The House Chief Administrative Officer's request for the boost in members allowances says that the money is necessary in part to cover a biennial increase in franked mail. "[I]n the second year of any Congress there is traditionally more legislative news to convey to constituencies as various bills evolve through the legislative process," a spokesman for the office said. But the National Taxpayers Union is not buying that explanation. The group points out that it is against the law for members of Congress to use public funds for their campaigns. Spokesman Pete Sepp said that the request is a brazen admission of impropriety.
"It's an incredibly naked admission that Members of Congress abuse the franking privilege for electoral purposes even though the rules say they don't. This sends the worst possible message not only to taxpayers but to the electoral system as a whole."
Increased usage of members' mailing privileges every two years may reflect the increased urgency for incumbents to communicate with their constituents prior to an election more than stepped up legislative business. For one thing, members notoriously try to avoid controversial votes in an election year, and the legislative calendar is shortened by a month to allow for campaigning. Given those facts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat leadership needs to provide a better explanation for the increase in the use of franked mail and members' office budgets slated for 2010.
Tagged: 2010 elections
, Congressional elections
, House mail
, Nancy pelosi