By Robert Mann
With more than $9 million to support his campaign for Louisiana governor, you wouldn’t think Sen. David Vitter would need to spend our tax dollars to supplement his political activities. I mean, with $9 million, you can afford paper and stamps and still have millions left for massive TV buys.
Vitter, however, seems to regard his official Senate office as an extension of his campaign — in the same way that Gov. Bobby Jindal has always abused and misused his office in pursuit of the White House.
Vitter, however, is taking things to an absurd degree. In the days since I first questioned if Vitter was abusing the congressional franking privilege regarding mass mailings, I’ve received a steady stream of various letters that Vitter is sending out to constituents. They are conveniently timed to land in mailboxes just months before the Oct. 24 primary election. And they seem to be written by Vitter’s Senate staffers on all kinds of subjects.
The letters do not have the disclaimer required by Senate rules for mass mailings (500 letters or more on the same subject). So, Vitter is either violating the law or he and his staff are engaging in some very delicate and sophisticated micro-targeting. In other words, they are churning out letters on dozens of issues and mailing them to constituents — but no letter goes to more than 500 constituents.
If it’s a mass mailing of 500 or more, each letter must feature the following language: “PREPARED, PUBLISHED, AND MAILED AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE.” According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Ethics, that language must appear “at the bottom of the first page of the mailing” and must be “no smaller than 7 point font.”
Vitter and his staff aren’t very discriminating about who gets a letter from the candidate. Even my wife received one the other day.
It’s obvious that this flurry of mailing activity is timed to coincide with the months when voters turn their attention to the governor’s race.
Vitter may not be violating the letter of the Senate rules regarding mass mailings, but he is clearly violating the spirit of the law.
Next time he says something about being a fierce ethical watchdog or a brags about being a fiscal conservative, remember that Vitter thinks nothing about using federal taxpayer dollars to underwrite his race for governor.
Here are some of Vitter’s letters I’ve obtained in the past 10 days: