WASHINGTON — A new taxpayer-funded mailing from Rep. George Radanovich, R-Mariposa, has a simple and alarming message for the San Joaquin Valley.
"The spending of your tax dollars is out of control," the publicly funded mailer states.
Radanovich's mailing positions him politically — "I'm working to help stop runaway spending," it proclaims — but it is not explicitly a campaign document. Instead, the mailing sent to about 90,000 households comes courtesy of the congressional frank, which is official mail sent at government expense.
Since first being authorized in 1775, the congressional frank has proven popular among incumbents. In fiscal 2007, House members spent more than $17 million on mass mailings.
During election years, more mailings go out and spending goes up. Challengers are left fuming.
"Radanovich is once again trying to manipulate public opinion through deception and is using our tax dollars to do it," Democratic congressional candidate Les Marsden, a Mariposa resident, said via e-mail Tuesday, adding that "he's campaigning by utilizing his franking privileges."
But this old-school mailing tool also is being updated as incumbents sample new techniques for mass and targeted communication. From YouTube channels to Twitter accounts, valley lawmakers are aggressively communicating in new ways.
On Tuesday, for instance, Rep. Jim Costa, D-Fresno, delivered a one-minute speech on the House floor urging more jobs in the valley. Costa's staff quickly secured a video of the speech and posted it to a YouTube channel.
Even quicker are the 140-character Twitter statements posted by an increasing number of lawmakers. Radanovich, one of the first Californians with a Twitter account, now has 1,547 followers who savor comments like his Nov. 4 declaration that "government's takeover of health care will extend the recession just as FDR's programs extended the great depression."
Traditional mailings take longer than Twitter and YouTube, in part because they need prior approval by a House franking commission. Radanovich's latest mailing began reaching valley households late last week.
"Taxpayers should know what their government is spending their tax dollars on and whether or not their congressmen agrees with this Congress and the administration's reckless spending," Radanovich press secretary Spencer Pederson said, calling the mailer "straightforward and factual."
During the first nine months of the year, congressional records show Radanovich spent $5,822 on public mailings. During the same period, Rep. Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced, spent $8,807 on mail.