FRIDAY, APRIL 20, UPDATE: "FRANKING" GUINTA. Republican Rep. Frank Guinta spent $164,629 on taxpayer-funded, or so-called "franked" mailings in 2011, which, according to a California newspaper, is tops in the U.S. House.
Guinta's chief of staff did not dispute the figure and said the freshman congressman has cut his office budget significantly, returned more than $50,000 to the Treasury and believes that "constituent service" is his top priority.
The Granite Status verified the figure, which is reported by the U.S. House on its web site in quarterly "statements of disbursement" and is also reported by a nonprofit watchdog group called the Sunlight Foundation.
Christine Bedell, government editor for the Bakersfield Californian newspaper, first reported that Guinta ranked first in franked mail spending. She said she sorted by amount the franked mail data provided in the congressional statements of disbursement and reported by the Sunlight Foundation and Guinta "came out on top."
U.S.Rep. Charlie Bass spent $22,344 on franked mail in 2011, ranking him at 202nd among 435 House members.
In 2010, Guinta criticized Democratic former congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter for sending out taxpayer-funded mailings that he said resembled campaign material.
"There is a thin line between maintaining a rapport with one's constituents and electioneering," then-candidate Guinta wrote on his campaign web site in 2010. "These pamphlets violate the idea of a 'Congressional Update,' and show an abuse of a representative's franking privileges."
Today, Guinta was criticized by state Democratic Party chairman Raymond Buckley.
"Frankly, Frank Guinta is hypocritical," Buckley said. "He is spending more than any other congressman in the nation and he is using taxpayer dollars to run for re-election."
"These are highly produced, campaign-style mailings that were prepared for and mailed at the taxpayer's expense. A practice that, before he went to Washington, be protested against."
He cited a mailer that was photographed and published on the pro-Democratic Blue Hampshire web site.
Buckley called on Guinta to "return the money he spent on these campaign materials to the taxpayers and issue an apology."
Guinta chief of staff Ethan Zorfas responded, "Congressman Guinta has cut his office's budget by 11.4 percent and, in addition, returned over $50,000 to the Treasury at the end of 2011.
"Constituent service will always be the congressman's top priority," said Zorfas. "Mailings are used for invitations to Job Fairs, Women's Conferences and Manufacturing Job Summits. The benefit to Granite Staters is apparent: increased communication with their government and lower operating expenses."
Read the article here.