North Dakota residents may have noticed a glossy mailer from Republican Congressman Kevin Cramer’s office landing in their mailboxes advertising “Coffee with Cramer” events across the state. I know several of you readers have emailed me photos of them, noting in particular a disclaimer noting they’d been paid for “at taxpayer expense.”
According to Cramer’s office the mailers cost $63,076.37 and were sent to “every postal customer in North Dakota.” And yes, they really were paid for by the taxpayers, through the franking privileges members of Congress enjoy.
One of Cramer’s opponents this election cycle, Libertarian Jack Seaman, says the mailings amount to taxpayer-funded campaigning.
“Kevin Cramer claims that he is a fiscal conservative, but this use of taxpayer funds for what basically amounts to campaign propaganda proves otherwise. Mr. Cramer should immediately pay back the cost of these mailings,” Seaman said in an emailed statement.
“Congressman Cramer has always campaigned on the message of changing the way Washington works, I fully agree with that sentiment, but now it looks like he’s playing career politician tricks” Seaman continued. “Congressman Cramer wants to act like he is a hero to taxpayers here in North Dakota, while he uses his own congressional office funds in questionable ways. Those positions contradict each other in a very obvious way.”
But when I spoke to Cramer about the mailing last night he accused Seaman of whining.
“It’s interesting Jack would whine about my accessibility like this,” he told me. “Legistorm is reporting I have held 122 more town halls than the next closest member of congress since I took office.”
Legistorm is a non-profit organization operating as a congressional watchdog and has, indeed, honored Cramer in the past for the number of town hall events he has held which number more, by a country mile, than any other member of Congress.
Cramer also argued that he is frugal in his use of congressional franking privileges.
“My policy for my mailing budget is that I only respond to constituent inquiry – 42,000 last year – and informing them of where they can go to participate in a town hall,” he said. “Nearly every other member mails slick campaign type newsletters bragging about their accomplishments. I don’t even include a photo of myself. With the latest postcard we even cut the costs by putting all of the locations on one card. The 8 by 11 standard size even saved postage compared to a smaller one.”
He added that all congressional mailings get the approval of an ethics committee before being sent out, and that this mailer was nearly identical to one his office sent out last year, which was not an election year.
You can read Seaman’s full statement below. Here is the list of the events advertised in Cramer’s mailer. They’re all open to the public, so maybe you can show up and…ask the Congressman about franking: