Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Self-promotion by politicians

In 2004, candidate Barbara McIlvaine Smith criticized an incumbent state lawmaker she was attempting to unseat for using taxpayer money to produce and mail a "newsletter" to constituents.

Now that McIlvaine Smith is a member of the Pennsylvania Legislature, she doesn't have the same concerns about wasting taxpayer money on self-promotion.

The first-term Democrat has quickly adopted the Democratic Party's favorite political motto: "Do as I say, not as I do."

Republicans, who have long memories, are crying foul about McIlvaine Smith's apparent change of heart involving the use of taxpayer-funded "newsletters" by lawmakers.

McIlvaine Smith was in office less than three months when she decided to mail more than 15,000 "newsletters" to residents in Chester County's 156th House District. The "newsletter" informs constituents where McIlvaine Smith's district office is located and recaps all the wonderful work she's done so far this year.

McIlvaine Smith's only claim to fame is that she was the Democrat who defeated the favored Republican to capture the 156th District and tip the balance of power in the state House of Representatives, which is now controlled by Democrats for the first time in 12 years.

Chester County GOP Chairman Joseph "Skip" Brion pounced on McIlvaine Smith's contradictory stances on newsletters.

Residents "should be outraged by the words and actions of Barbara McIlvaine Smith," he told the West Chester Daily Local News. "In 2004 … she attacked incumbents for their use of constituent newsletters, claiming that they were a waste of taxpayers' dollars. Now, she's sending them out."

McIlvaine Smith was quoted in the very same newspaper two years ago as saying: "If incumbents … want to make sure the voters in their districts don’t forget who they are, they should use their own campaign funds to put their names and faces in front of their constituents."

The newsletter mailed out last month was not self-promotion, according to McIlvaine Smith, who dismissed GOP criticism as "sour grapes as usual."

And in an explanation that only Bill Clinton would love, McIlvaine Smith said that when she was campaigning in 2004, she opposed the use of taxpayer-funded newsletters that were mailed out near Election Day, not newsletters in general.

In other words, it's OK to waste taxpayer dollars two years before you run for re-election. It's not right to do it six months before the election.

The Daily Local News pointed out in a recent editorial that McIlvaine Smith's newsletter went far beyond merely informing voters where to find the offices of their new state representative.

The newsletter, according to the newspaper, includes such informative "articles" as "Rep. McIlvaine Smith champions special education" and "Rep. McIlvaine Smith: A champion for the environment."

The newspaper also noted that the newsletter "features no fewer than seven color photos of McIlvaine Smith, in various smiling poses. That would seem to fit the self-promotional aspect of such mailings that many find troubling, whenever they arrive."

McIlvaine Smith should come down from her high horse. The newsletter is political advertising. Nothing more, nothing less.

McIlvaine Smith said some newsletters that other lawmakers mail out cost as much as $25,000. Her newsletter is a bargain at a cost of $3,196.

Brion noted that McIlvaine Smith could have notified people about her new office via postcards instead of a newsletter.

To pretend that the voters of the 156th District need to see seven photos of McIlvaine Smith or read fluff pieces about her first three months in Harrisburg is an insult to her constituents.

The 156th District race was the tightest House contest in last November's election. McIlvaine Smith won by just 28 votes over Republican Shannon Royer. She can easily lose her bid for re-election in 2008 if 29 more Republicans show up at the polls.

The newsletter is political advertising at taxpayers' expense.

Like so many others, McIlvaine Smith ran on a reform platform in 2006, but she quickly fell in line when she got to Harrisburg and will vote exactly how the party bosses tell her to. She has accepted all the perks that voters are sick of hearing about. The extravagant pension, per diems, free life insurance, free health insurance, a state car, etc.

The newsletter McIlvaine Smith sent the folks back home, which is something all 203 members of the House are guilty of doing, is a reminder of how good the members of the House of Lords have it in Harrisburg.

It's also a slap in the face to voters. It's a reminder of how politicians waste our tax dollars every day.


LVDem said...

Doug Reichley continues to host breakfasts in his district and I got a newsletter from my state senator. It would be nice if you focused on those too. But they are republicans so they aren't taypayer ads... they are constituent mailers.

They all do it and until we outlaw all of those little perks, then we have to pick on all of the people who use them... yes, the Republicans too.

Nathaniel said...

Why read Tony Phyrillas when you can read all the same petty stuff direct from Republican boss Skip Brion's press release?

OK, Tony does add that McIlvaine Smith spent about 1/8 what EZ Taylor spent on each mailing. To economize taxpayer money she scaled down color and glossiness, and mailed only once per household (not once per voter), minus some by email.

By the way, her opponent was not "the favored candidate"; even some Republicans would have preferred another Republican; many R's, and most D's and I's, voted enthusiastically for McIlvaine Smith.

And Rep. McIlvaine Smith has not accepted a state car; she normally travels to Harrisburg by Amtrak.