Republican Mark Greenberg says his 5th District Democratic opponent, U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, is squandering taxpayer money by spending more than $200,000 on mailers in less than two years.
“Elizabeth Esty is once again showing her disdain for the taxpayers in the 5th District,” Greenberg said in a press release. “Even though she has served less than two years in office, Esty has quickly mastered the art of exploiting taxpayers for political purposes, in this case by spending the outrageous sum of more than $200,000 on mailers touting her so-called accomplishments. The citizens of the 5th District would have been far better served if Esty had spared them the costs of sharing her record.”
The franking privilege is a key congressional perk; it allows members to allocate part of their budgets to send mail to constituents, provided the mail pertains to official government business. All of the mass mailings are required to contain a disclaimer explaining that it was sent at taxpayer’s expense. Also, each member must disclose on a quarterly basis the number of mailings sent as well as their costs, according to the Committee on House Administration, which oversees congressional franking privileges.
Esty, a who is nearing the end of her first term in office, said the $208,899.27 worth of mailings, were vital to keep constituents informed of what is happening in Washington.
“My office is here to cut through red tape to help folks receive the benefits they have earned and better understand the federal programs that are available to help their families,” Esty said via email. “I’ve heard time and time again from veterans who called in for assistance with backlogged VA benefits or seniors who are waiting for their delayed Social Security benefits that they just didn’t know what a Member of Congress could do to help until they read a newsletter I mailed, joined a ‘Congress on Your Corner’ I hosted in their community, or participated in a telephone town hall I conducted. I strongly believe in actively communicating and getting feedback from the families I have the honor of representing. That’s what it means to be a ‘representative,’ and I take that responsibility very seriously.”
Her spokeswoman, Laura Maloney, said all franked communication undergoes “a rigorous vetting and approval process by a bipartisan committee.”
Greenberg maintains such mailings are a waste of taxpayer money. “Rep. Esty should foreswear any future such mailings,” he said. “To spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on thinly-disguised re-election mailers is a great example of why Washington is broken.”
Greenberg said he backs a bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Rob Woodall of Georgia and Democratic Rep. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois that would end franking privileges for members of Congress. The bill is backed by the National Taxpayers Union.