A little more on Third-district Congressman Erik Paulsen’s game-playing with his “official constituent communications”…
I spoke with a couple of congressional staffers, all of whom noted that Paulsen had to get this piece past the bipartisan Franking Commission, which has oversight power over exactly this sort of literature. That means he had to get it past at least a couple of Democratic members, and it apparently passed muster for “official” use.
As I noted in the previous post, I don’t hold any illusions about whether one party is entirely innocent or guilty here. But I think Paulsen’s fine example of political hackery provides us an opportunity to discuss what the Franking Commission should be doing, rather than what it is doing.
Is the Commission’s responsibility to arbitrate big concepts like “truth”? No, of course not. But it’s not their responsibility to play dumb either. Inside the congressional sausage factory, I’m sure there’s a lot of pressure for junior members like Paulsen to fall in line and push the party line with their official communications, or else.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean using blatantly partisan techniques to push lies into your constituent’s heads. Take First district member Tim Walz as an example. With a recent “official business” letter, his staff made it into an open-ended opportunity for constituents to provide feedback and their thoughts. Many will be useless; others may actually be insightful. Walz’s office got a fantastic return on that small investment of time, energy, and taxpayer dollars.
Compare that to the blatant play for golden email addresses by Paulsen, conflated with a talking-points-laden attempt to push polls in his favor. There’s a better way to do this thing called “American democracy,” and it doesn’t really seem like Erik Paulsen or his staff understand that.