U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and two other Arizona Democrats running for re-election have spent three times as much money sending fliers touting their accomplishments to constituents this spring as they did during the same period last year.
The Arizona Daily Star reported Sunday that Giffords’ jump in spending during the spring run-up to her re-election campaign mirrors that of Reps. Ann Kirkpatrick and Harry Mitchell, who are also locked in competitive races. They too tripled their spending in the latest federal report tracking mailing expenses for House members.
Giffords spent about $157,000 in April and May before the free mass-mailing cutoff date for Congress members facing re-election. In the same quarter in 2009, with no election looming, she spent $52,000 to send unsolicited informational mail to her district.
Giffords’ office issued a statement saying communicating with constituents is important to her.
“Having an open, accountable and transparent government requires all public servants to explain their actions and motives. Congresswoman Giffords takes this requirement very seriously. She believes the public she serves has a right to know what their representative is doing on their behalf,” Giffords spokesman C.J. Karamargin said in the statement.
Federal records show Giffords mailed at least three fliers to the district in April and May, totaling about 600,000 pieces of mail. One was on the economy, another on the border and one on fiscal discipline in Washington.
There are rules restricting what the mass mailings can say, but some — including Giffords’ Republican opponent, Jesse Kelly — are criticizing the representative’s use of free postage for the mailings.
“It is sad when career politicians like Gabrielle Giffords waste taxpayer money to mail campaign fliers to the voters,” Kelly said. “Her abuse of the taxpayer upset me as much as her bailout of Wall Street.”
Karamargin countered, saying Giffords knows her constituents are busy and she uses “all tools available to engage her constituents.”
Bob Howard, who lives in Giffords’ district, said the mailings seemed like campaign material, which made him question why all constituents in the district didn’t receive the information paid for with public money. Of the four residents in his home, he said, the mailings were addressed solely to the one independent voter in the household. None was addressed to the three registered Republicans.
Giffords’ office doesn’t consider voter registration when preparing constituent communications, Karamargin said.
Like Giffords, Kirkpatrick and Mitchell face competition for re-election.
Kirkpatrick spent about $154,000 in the second quarter of 2010, compared with less than $50,000 in the second quarter of 2009. Mitchell spent less, at $65,000 this spring, and nearly $23,000 the same quarter last year.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, who is seeking a fifth term, spent about $30,000 in the second quarter, compared to none in the same period last year.
Records show other Arizona representatives in more secure districts, such as Jeff Flake, John Shadegg and Trent Franks, each spent less than $10,000 in the second quarter. Longtime Democratic Rep. Ed Pastor spent about $32,000.