The Binghamton Press & Sun published an article Sept 23, 2012 (NY lawmakers spent $6.8M on taxpayer-funded mailers) which highlighted how much State Assembly and State Senate members spent from October 2011 – March 2012 just on mailings. The figure is large and draws attention, but it made us pause.
What the article did not state was how much is spent on an average year by the elected officials highlighted. Nor did it take into consideration what was being sent out. These are facts that are critical to the spending, and since elections are less than 2 months away critical to the impression being left on voters. We were especially interested with 2 elected officials we had contacted about mailings earlier this year.
May 26, 2012, we published an article that expanded on a press release from Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo. The press release detailed the results of an informal survey, an Assembly Constituent Survey, focused on medical marijuana, fracking, casino gambling, reforming state government, and the State response to the 2011 flood. Mailings were sent to 49,449 constituents. At regular mail rates (.43 cents) the cost would be about $21,263.07, but bulk mail rates were more likely used (the question of cost was not addressed in the May article).
We also asked State Senator Tom Libous if his office provided similar surveys to constituents. We received no response.
We mention both these elected officials as they are 2 of those that were singled out in the Binghamton article. The article by the Press & Sun highlighted that Assemblywoman Lupardo spent $19,506 and Senator Libous spent $26,407.
The Press & Sun article implies that if divided evenly each elected official would have spent $31,924 on mailings in the time quoted. The average of all 213 elected legislators for 2010 was approximately $36,619 based on the article. The article does clearly denote that in the State Senate the collective average does not apply, and that in the State Assembly the division of cost is also skewed. But this still fails to clarify what was spent previously, and what on.
We reached out to both elected officials we contacted in May 2012. We asked 2 questions: Was the survey part of the cost quoted by the Press & Sun? What was the cost in 2011 and 2010?
The response from Assemblywoman Lupardo’s office was as simple and clear as our questions. The survey, mailed from February – March, was part of the figure highlighted by the Press & Sun. In fact it was the majority of the cost. The other answer was that in 2011 the cost of mailings by Assemblywoman Lupardo’s office was $152 for the entire year. We did not get an answer about 2010 mailing costs.
The Press & Sun article was focused on the cost of mailings, and directly attributes that to political promotions. Especially in an election year before the official blackout period (30 days prior to a primary and 60 days before a general election). In highlighting the Southern Tier elected officials, the article creates the impression (by accident or on purpose) that the actions of these officials are self-promotional. While that could be true of some of the officials, or all elected officials over time, it is not a given fact nor reflective of at least the information we directly had.
M V Consulting, Inc does not care who voters vote for, only that they make an informed vote. We believe that oversight on the spending of elected officials is important, especially with the deficits of NY State and the nation and/or in connection to elections. Yet, at the same time we believe that the proper perspective must always be maintained. A snapshot of a single election year, without context of what was done nor a comparison to prior actions is unfair.
For the local elected officials we were able to contact and have information from, some perspective is now available. What conclusion voters make of that is up to them.