Change is still waiting.


Our story about Gabrielle Giffords’ abuse of congressional franking privileges solicited a number of comments. One of them written by Rex was aimed directly at the credibility of this site:

If Sonoran Alliance writers acknowledge the use/abuse of franking by all these folks, I’ll take their criticism of Giffords as something more lofty than a back door way of coming to the defense of Tim Bee …

Challenge accepted. The best data we could find is from 2005. According to a National Taxpayers Union report the following was spent on mass mailings by Arizona’s House delegation in that year.

Renzi – $124,270
Franks – $42,188
Shadegg – $0
Pastor – $55,035
Hayworth – $55,847
Flake – $1,406
Grijalva – $0
Kolbe – $88,939

I personally have received several oversize, full color graphic postcards from Giffords that had little information and lots of propaganda about Gabrielle. The two big spenders from 2005, Renzi and Kolbe, sent an average of 2.21 pieces per address (in the mass mailings category.) Based on this Giffords is well on her way to equaling or exceeding the worst abuse of this congressional incumbent protection loophole.

The story here is not that Giffords sends franked mail. Clearly there is nothing new in that. The first issue is that she ran on a Change Can’t Wait slogan and is giving us the same old thing. Second she claims to be a fiscally conservative Blue Dog (the graphic above was mailed to my address at taxpayer expense.) Third, the press gives her a pass on this issue while over covering the Tim Bee story.

We are not covering this issue as a back-door way of defending Tim Bee (Rex, if you only knew …) We know that Garrick Taylor is a master of the press conference and we would never want to be perceived as doing his job for him.

While researching this story I found this article on the Democrats’ strategy for keeping their majority in the house:

Democratic leaders want the rank and file to do more to publicize those details, because they are concerned that the public is unaware of those accomplishments and that it will become more difficult to hype their message as the presidential race further dominates the news.

Those leaders expect their members to hold more press conferences and town hall meetings, send out more franked mail and develop better online strategies. Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-S.C.) is expected to keep tabs on which Democrats are doing their part to play up their record, leadership aides said.

Many thanks to the every valuable Espresso Pundit for earlier work on this topic.


  1. Giffords does NOT pass the smell test. Seeing a blue dog on a franking piece is politics pure and simple.

  2. The Democrats have almost doubled the number earmarks the Republicans had in their worst year, and rolled back most of the reforms to bring sunlight to this process.

    The so-called “kulture of korruption” does not seem to be a concern to the media when the Democrats are in power.

  3. I stand by my previous plague-on-both-their-houses comments about using the power of incumbency to stay in office.

    Having said that, it appears that Rep. Giffords has to work hard to keep up with Republican Rep Rick Renzi. Our ethics-challenged soon-to-be-ex congressman from CD1 blew a massive chunk of change on franked mailings.

    Or is that OK because he’s a Republican?

  4. Sam,

    The number of dollars is not so much an issue as the content of the mailings. If Renzi sent out info to his constituents, many of whom live in communities with less access to mass communications than do those in CD 8, in order to keep them up to date on issues that affect them, then job well done. If, he used them for self promotion and blatant personal propaganda, then he is a skunk.

    Call it what it is. She does not get a pass because “everyone is doing it”.

  5. Oro Valley Dad says


    I agree with your “plague-on-both-their-houses” position. In fact we copied the spending levels from 2005 just as we found them regardless of party.

    Since Renzi is not in my district and is on his way out I have little interesting in covering him. Likewise, Kolbe is gone so not much to cover there (this site has never been a defender of Kolbe and some of us would even debate if he was really a Republican or not.)

    I cover Giffords because she is my representative in congress. If I had a big-spending Republican representing me he/she would get covered as well. Some people seem to be saying it’s OK for Giffords to do it because others are doing the same thing, from both parties. Will she be running on that kind of approach to ethics?

  6. I didm’t give her a pass, Ann. A plague on all their houses. However, you do seem willing to give Renzi a partial pass because he serves a rural district.

    Now I’m sure the pieces from Giffords go to the entire district, including eastern Tucson – but what about Willcox, Bisbee, And all those rural constituents in CD8?

    And please don’t assert that all of Renzi’s people live in rural areas. Last time I check, Flagstaff, Sedona, Casa Grand, etc. access to radio, TV and newspapers. They don’t all live in the middle of the Rez.

  7. The content of Gabby’s publicly paid financing is clearly campaign oriented. She is abusing her privilages and an ethics investigation should begin immediately.

    Good thing about Congressmen & women…you get a chance to throw the bum out every 2 years. Let’s take advantage of our opportunity.

  8. I will spare the reader my extremely offensive comment about why Grijalva does not bother to mail such material to his district.

    I speculate that mailings correlate to the competitive nature of the district, perhaps not perfectly, but strongly.

    As noted repeatedly, most districts are locked. Pastor, etc., can send out informative mailings as he pleases for whatever purpose.

    Giffords is playing for keeps in a difficult district, and I agree with her calculation that the mailings produce a net gain. The complaints here cost her nothing. She probably is pushing the envelope, and intelligently so. I understand and appreciate your sentiments, but only folks like us pay attention or care.

    Eggplant drops a billion a day+ in Iraq and is killing our children to fatten Dick’s friends, and you think fifty grand in flyers will become a hot issue? As the election approaches, these mailings are not part of the discourse.

    As an aside, I just have to say:

    Isn’t Ron Paul’s stark contrast to all of the BS refreshing?

  9. Oro Valley Dad says


    Interesting take.

    I’m a Blue Dog concerned about fiscal resposibilty so my spending on franked mail for my re-election is OK because the war in Iraq costs more.

    Yes, Ron Paul is refreshing. That is why we have been covering the local story.

  10. OVD-

    Thanks for your response and analysis. Keep in mind that I also called for the abolition of the franking privilege for all members of Congress. Your analysis confirms the fact that the privilege is used on a bipartisan basis in Arizona. It should also come as no surprise that it has been used more frequently by representatives from competitive districts. The same would doubtless hold true in other states.

    Sonoran Alliance is a conservative blog. One of your contributors posted a YouTube video not too long ago that showed starry-eyed young Republicans holding up signs pleading with Tim Bee to run against Rep. Giffords. It is also a fact that Rep. Giffords is regularly bashed for any number of reasons by you and other contributors.

    Thus, you’ll forgive me if I question your objectivity, but I think your credibility is unassailable. I like the site and enjoy the fact that it is a place where all people can feel that their voices are welcomed. However, slamming our member of Congress for utilizing an allowable tool is silly and frivolous. I doubt those who are calling for Rep. Giffords to be hauled before the Ethics Committee would make the same demand of Republican House members who send out the same sort of material. Moreover, I’m certain that all members of Congress make sure that franked pieces of mail will pass legal muster if charges such as those made by some on this site are brought forth.

  11. Rex,


    There’s simply no cheese down this tunnel.

  12. Oro Valley Dad says


    I will treasure your comment forever “I question your objectivity, but I think your credibility is unassailable.”

    I disagree that this issue is “silly and frivolous.” I think it illustrates how craven Giffords is in her desire to hold power. It also shows that she is insincere in her claims that she is a fiscal conservative. Voters are looking for genuine candidates and this points out one of her biggest flaws. Will it win or lose the race for her – maybe not. Does it tell us something about who she is – most definitely.


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