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Paulsen uses taxpayer money to play campaign-season games

by Joe Bodell on April 10, 2009 · 1 comment

It’s no secret that I’m not a huge fan of Erik Paulsen. He puts a friendly suburban face on the same dead-end policy positions as Michele Bachmann, only he knows slightly better than she when to keep his mouth shut.

So when I got this glossy, impressive-looking piece of franked literature in the mail yesterday, I went looking for things to find unsatisfactory. I didn’t have to search very long.

One of the circled areas says “PUBLIC DOCUMENT OFFICIAL BUSINESS This mailing was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense.” The other is a piece of a “public opinion survey” the Congressman is asking me to fill out and return to his office. The questions, strangely enough, start inoffensively enough and descend into pure campaign-season politics — Do you support the $787 billion stimulus package? (inoffensive) Do you support a nationalized health care system (well, I support a system in which kids are covered no matter what and adults don’t have to choose between buying food and seeing a doctor for preventative or urgent care, does that count?) The financial bailout of the “big three” auto manufacturers? (What, no question about the bailouts of the banks and investment houses which absorbed many dozens of times the bailout funds of the Big Three?)

But the big badness is right there, circled in red:

“Do you support or oppose … union leaders taking away workers’ right to vote by secret ballot in a unionization election?”

Wow. I wonder what Paulsen is talking about?

Continue after the break
The answer, of course, is easy: it’s the Employee Free Choice Act, which will make unionization easier by providing an additional (not a replacement) path to unionization. It will complement the secret ballot, and protect workers from intimidation from management, which is endemic in today’s labor environment.

There are two threads to Paulsen’s little political play here. One is the hilarity of the very idea — A Republican Congresman, he of the corporate wing of the party no less, making like he’s sticking up for the little guy against the big bad union bosses? It’s more likely that since more successful unionization will lead to expansion of the middle class and thus more solidly Democratic votes that Paulsen’s overlords in the GOP have sent word down from on high that the Employee Free Choice Act is to be opposed at all costs, benefits to American citizens be damned.

We’ve been through that before though. What really irks me about this mailer is that Paulsen is using taxpayer funds to push Republican Party talking points into the consciousness of his constituents. It’s like when Rasmussen polled recently with the question “how important is it that the dollar remain America’s currency?” in the aftermath of Michele Bachmann’s idiotic rant about a pan-global currency scare. It didn’t matter that there was no pan-global currency proposal on the table; the poll was designed to reinforce the idea so that Bachmann would in turn have a rhetorical leg to stand on to say “see? People are worried about this, that’s why Rasmussen polled it!”

Circular logic.

The Republican leadership sends out talking points on Employee Free Choice, Republican members of Congress push those talking points in the form of “public opinion surveys” using taxpayer money, and then when they get lots of “good” answers to their carefully crafted “questions,” they take that as reinforcement of their predetermined policy positions. They then decline to accept the will of the American voter, who told them loud and clear last November to sit down and work with the Democratic leadership in Congress and the White House.

I’m not so naive to think that Erik Paulsen is the only member of Congress who uses the franking privilege to send out literature about their activities in Washington. Quite the contrary; all members do it in various forms.

But the Third district deserves way better than the thin gruel Erik Paulsen is serving up. Congressman: if you’re going to ask a question, at least have the guts to make it a fair one. At least have the guts to send out this kind of drivel on campaign letterhead, rather than using our tax dollars to fund your reactionary political program.

Candidate Paulsen liked to say “Congress is broken.” Congressman Paulsen is doing his part to make it true.

Anyone surprised?

Alec April 10, 2009 at 7:29 am

  Last Sunday the Pioneer Press put out its official stance on the EFCA. They choose the most widely read day to place their conclusions, which were devoid of facts and completely one sided. They outright claim the EFCA takes away Democracy, but they go even further. They imply that the ends, of a more unionized America, is not even a good thing.

“The means don’t justify a debate able end.” They strongly present the management side that unions take away their freedom. Anyway, I will never subscribe to them again. Their editorial board didn’t even do good journalism in the hit job.

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