Friday, April 28, 2006

Taxpayer-Funded Campaign Literature

Democrats have been critical of Secretary of State Todd Rokita running television ads to explain the state's new voter ID law. Because it is an election year, they believe it amounts to taxpayer-funded campaign advertising. Why didn't he run the ads last year they ask?

With less than a week before the May 2 primary, voters in Democrat John Day's House District 100 received a "2006 Session Report." It's a slick, 4-page, full color brochure, which includes 3 photos of Rep. Day. It has a cover letter from Rep. Day, which begins:

In this spring session of new life, my spirits are up as I review for you the 2006 legislative session and district news. While the Republicans tell us it was a terrific session and many Democrats rate the session very poorly, I believe the answer is somewhere in the middle perhaps a C or C+ on a rating scale . . . My own efforts this year produced mixed results. On the plus side, I was able to amend our 1993 School Breakfast Law to expand the program to an additional 135 schools. However, my ongoing effort to raise the state's minimum wage was blocked in the House.

Day then goes on to explain that the taxpayer-funded newsletter reviews a "very promising consumer protection law regarding home improvement fraud plus a new approach to dealing with abandoned buildings that harm our neighborhoods . . . Also, in the Good News Department let me report on a recent visit to a reborn Howe High School renamed Howe Academy."

On the back page of this taxpayer-funded newsletter, Day asks, "Will you be able to vote?" He then explains the new voter ID law, throwing in a pitch for the Democrats' partisan lawsuit to overturn the new law. He says, "Many of us believe this law, now being challenged in federal court, is unconstitutional but until a court rules otherwise--it is the law and we must all show a photo ID in order to vote."

Rep. Day is not facing an opponent in next Tuesday's primary, but many other incumbent legislators are? Are their legislative reports arriving in voters' mailbox this close to the election as well? Clearly a bright line rule is needed to prevent incumbent lawmakers from abusing their franking privilege by sending out self-promotional puff pieces so near an election. This provides an extremely unfair advantage to incumbents at taxpayers' expense. According to Rep. Day's campaign finance reports, he has not raised or spent any campaign funds during this election cycle. Why should he when he can use taxpayers' money to get the job done?

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