Over on his website, Allen Quist has the fainting fantods over Congressional Democrat Tim Walz's use of congressional franking. Not that that condition is surprising, given that he was bewailing the lack of character of failed MNGOP leadership over on his Facebook page just before Christmas.
In Congressman Walz: Stop mailing campaign materials at taxpayer expense, whomever is writing Quist's material fumes:
. . .“It is difficult to find any concern for taxpayer expense in these mailings,” Quist said. He noted that the mailings are four-color, on high quality glossy paper and printed in union shops. “No expense is spared in these mailings,” Quist stated. He also said this wrongful use of taxpayer money is especially outrageous when huge federal deficits are the order of the day.
According to Quist, Members of Congress hide behind two excuses in this improper use of taxpayer money. The first, he said, is to say that Members of Congress from both parties engage in the practice. Quist’s response is: “Even if ‘everybody is doing it,’ that doesn’t make it right.”
The second excuse, according to Quist, is that Members of Congress say the Franking Commission approves the mailings. Quist’s response is that the Franking Commission needs to be reformed as well.
Quist said the abuse of the franking privilege typifies what is wrong with Washington. The Congressional franking procedures are structured to give the appearance of propriety, while the real issue of whether a piece is informational or political is overlooked, he stated.
Quist said that if he is elected to Congress, he will refuse to send out political mailings at taxpayer expense, and he will also work to reform the system so the abusive practice is stopped.
Bluestem was curious about just how much Congressman Walz was spending on franking so we visited the U.S. House of Representatives Statement of Disbursement webpage, where Congressional office costs are published in search PDFs.
There we learned that Walz's franking expenses, found here on page 2288 (397 of 957) are $4,663.10 for the year-to-date (the YTD figure in the last quarterly report covered the period from January through September).
Since Quist accuses Walz of abusing the system, while implying that he's spending big bucks on the mailing--though never actually bringing up a dollar figure--we checked out the rest of Minnesota's federal representatives' franking to see how the Mankato teacher and retired soldier compares to his colleagues.
And indeed, Walz is spending the most of any United State Representative--if all one looks at are the records for the four DFLers in the House.
Bottom of the heap? Fifth District Congressman Keith Ellison, who used only $1055.04 for franking YTD (PDF here, p. 758). Next up in the pack, Blue Dog Seventh CD Congressman Collin Peterson follows with $2907.98 (PDF here, p.1741 [800 of 959]) Closely at his heels, Fourth CD Congresswoman Betty McCollum spent $2,982.22 in franking dollars YTD (PDF here, p.1484, [543 of 959]).
That's a total of $11,608.34 use of the franking privilege YTD by Minnesota's Democratic U.S. Representatives.
Since we've seen that Quist isn't afraid to criticize his own party nor abuse of the franking system by both parties (and he brought this up), it's only fair to check out spend by the Republican half of the state's delegation.
Chip Cravaack is the piker in the bunch, spending a mere $10,693.97 for franking YTD (PDF here, p. 607). Next up? The office for which Quist's own wife once worked: Michele Bachmann spent $16,447.16 YTD. (PDF here, p. 212).
[Bonus update: Dump Bachmann notes in Bachmann & Her Abuse of her Franking Privilege that in 2009--while Quist's own wife Julie was district director for the Sixth CD Congresswoman--Bachmann's office spent a lot more money:
Bachmann reported spending $217,197 on franked communications and made 4,102,827 contacts with constituents during 2009. That ranked her 57th in the House in terms of money spent and 12th in the number of communications sent.
Not a peep about that during Allen Quist's 2010 bid for endorsement in the First]
But while Cravaack's office spent nearly as much for franking as all the Minnesota Democrats combined, and Bachmann bested the collective figure by several grand, they're almost spending like Democrats when it comes to John Kline and Erik Paulsen, who must never, ever use the phone or email to converse with constituents.
John Kline's office has spent $36,115.96 for franking YTD (PDF here p. 1276 [335 of 959]), while Erik Paulsen sits on the top of the heap by virtue of having spent $38,707.12 YTD (PDF here p.1703 [762 of 959]).
That's a total of $101,964.21 of franking YTD by Minnesotan's Republican Representatives. Perhaps none of those pieces would look like campaign literature to Mr. Quist. It's a judgment call, after all, but those dollar amounts are what they are.
Given Quist's outrage at the franking system and a potential dilemma posed by redistricting, Bluestem Prairie offers the Nicollet County farmer and former state legislator a modest proposal that could resolve both outrage and residency issues.
Under Republican redistricting plans, Nicollet County will be moved from the First to the Second. MPR reports that Quist is renting an apartment in Byron in order to live in the First and battle Walz should the MNGOP get its way in redrawing the borders for the First.
Bluestem recommends that he save his money, stay put on the farm, and primary the free-franking John Kline instead.
Photo: Allen Quist,furious about franking.