Rep. John Doolittle's flurry of taxpayer-funded mailers appears to have been sent in time to beat the Aug. 9 pre-election postmark deadline for mass mailings.
Doolittle, R-Roseville, is allotted approximately $1.3 million each year to pay for staff, travel and expenses such as the mailers, in addition to his salary of $165,200. The congressman is allowed to use any portion of his $1.3 million treasury on "franking," or sending mail at taxpayer expense.
The eight-term incumbent spent $53,617 in the first half of 2006 on franked mail, according to government documents. During the same time period, East Bay Democratic Rep. George Miller spent $16,651 on mailers and Rep. Richard Pombo, the Republican representing San Joaquin County and nearby areas, spent $46,786 on franked mail.
Laura Blackann, Doolittle's Washington, D.C., spokesperson, declined to provide the amount of money Doolittle spent on franking in July and August, when many of his mailers were sent. Franked mail expenditures are public information, but recent figures have not yet been officially compiled.
Doolittle spent $38,963 for mailers in all of 2001, said Pete Sepp, spokesman for the National Taxpayer's Union. Politicians will "totally squirm" out of reporting recent public spending before deadlines, he added.
During Doolittle first re-election bid, he spent $412,250 on franked mail between January 1991 and September 1992, Sepp said.
Todd Stenhouse, spokesman for congressional challenger Charles Brown, D-Roseville, charged that Doolittle has spent $183,266 on franked mail this year, which he said is significantly more than most U.S. representatives.
Doolittle's franking expenditures show he's not the "fiscal conservative" he claims to be, said Stenhouse, adding that taxpayer funds have been used to "distort a non-record" with Doolittle's mailers. One franked mailer was a glossy, four-page brochure featuring actions Doolittle said he took to protect the environment.
"Clearly, (Doolittle) does not value hard-earned tax dollars," Stenhouse said.
Blackann defended the franked mail as necessary.
"The congressman has an obligation to inform his constituents about what he is doing on their behalf," she stated in an e-mail.
Doolittle publicly funded mailers are in addition to the $1,207,320 campaign chest he has amassed for the upcoming election prior to June 30 and $446,380 in Political Action Committee money he collected in the same period.
Taxpayer-funded mailers are subject to franking rules, which prohibit "mail matter which specifically solicits political support for the sender." In addition, "(Mail) which mentions that the representative ... is a candidate for political office is not frankable."
Franked mail is officially approved by six U.S. representatives on the bipartisan Franking Commission, which determines whether or not tax-funded mail meets guidelines.
One Franking Commission member is Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, who withdrew from his re-election race earlier this month due to controversy surrounding his involvement with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who also has ties to Doolittle.
Brown raised $254,059 prior to June 30. Approximately $200,000 arrived in July and August, Stenhouse said.
The donations show "momentum is gathering," he said.
To reach staff writer Josh Singer, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 477-4234.