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More on Paulsen’s franking/game-playing

by Joe Bodell on April 10, 2009 · 4 comments

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.

MtkaDem April 10, 2009 at 9:28 pm

Seems like a legacy strategy for CD3 — Jim Ramstad used to send out “surveys” with obviously leading questions and only Yes/No answers…here’s a link to the spring 2005 survey:

Joe Bodell April 10, 2009 at 10:30 pm

I don’t remember them being this blatant. Even the one you linked from Spring 2005 had some questions that were leading-ish, but nowhere near as bad as the lies the GOP is pushing about the Employee Free Choice act that Paulsen managed to work into the subtext of this one.

The larger point, again, is that franking should be about actual business, not about pushing political positions. If the member wants to hold a town hall where they talk about their positions openly and in a format that allows real interaction with constituents, that’s fine. But using taxpayer dollars to push this context-free bush-league messaging is bogus.

EP Dem April 10, 2009 at 11:21 pm

I sent mine back noting the leading question about the Employee Free Choice act.  I always write comments in, even if they don’t ask for them.  I also noted that they could have used recycled paper instead of the colored, glossy extra-expensive to taxpayers paper that his people chose.  I don’t remember Ramstad doing that.

Holly Cairns April 11, 2009 at 1:50 am

I’ve got John Kline’s in my hand.  

“Congressman John Kline:  Getting our economy working again and helping working families.”

It goes on to say Kline voted against the stimulus bill.  Let’s see how we feel about that once the stimulus money gets here…

I ask, just what is he doing to get the economy working?  I just see evidence of him getting in the way of our best efforts, and his literature suggests he still likes “trickle down”  (help the business owner and they’ll pass on the wealth. Yeah Right.)  

But I agree that businesses need stimulating.

The lit also says “Kline introduces bill to protect workers.”

It’s a bill that goes against unions.  I’m for unions and I think we need a balance of power so the little guy gets a little money, too.

Overall, I wonder how Kline is making a difference in my family’s budget (as the back of the lit says.)

Well, I guess it’s an update of sorts.

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