Tag Archives: constituent

Legislator Mailing Accounts: Some Overspend, Some Build Fat Surplus, Some Help Friends

While four legislators have overspent their taxpayer-funded “constituent communications” accounts as their terms in the 107th General Assembly wind to a close, one lawmaker will be sitting on a $100,000 when the 108th General Assembly begins on election day, a review of records shows.
Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, ran up the biggest deficit with an account that was $6,023 in the red. The shortfall would have been larger had not state Sen. Eric Stewart, D-Belvidere, who is giving up his Senate seat to run for Congress, transferred $2,652 from his account to Kyle’s account.
Smaller amounts are owed to the state by Reps. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, ($47.34); Mike Kernell, D-Memphis, ($1,406), and Dale Ford, R-Jonesborough ($162.92).
The four lawmakers with deficits all faced stiff re-election challenges in primaries this year. Kyle won his race, defeating Sen. Beverley Marrero in the August Democratic primary in a contest set up by legislative redistricting. Because he has no general election opponent, his account will get a fresh infusion of state funds — $6,832, to be precise — when his new term officially begins the day after the Nov. 6 election.

Continue reading

Republicans Bash Barnes on Constituent Mailers

Republicans are faulting Democratic state Sen. Tim Barnes for spending $15,517 from his taxpayer-funded “constituent communications” account on two mailers this year, one in June and one in September, reports the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle.
“It’s pretty clear that constituent communications need to be done when the legislature is in session,” said Jordan Young, Senate Republican Caucus executive director.
“Saving all that money and using it during the campaign when his services are completed is wrong,” Young said. “Wouldn’t you want to know about a particular issue before you vote on it?”
Legislators are given an allowance for mailers for communications with constituents, but those mailers are prohibited during the 30 days before a primary or a general election.
In this case, the June mailer went out about a week before the cutoff, which Young said indicates Barnes was “flirting with that rule.”
But, he said, “whether it follows the rule or not doesn’t make it right. Sen. Barnes is using taxpayer resources to build up his name” and that’s not fair, he said, when “our candidate has to pay for it himself.”
On Nov. 6, Barnes faces Republican Mark Green for the District 22 seat, which includes Montgomery, Stewart and Houston counties. Young characterized it as the only “highly contested” state Senate race where the incumbent is a Democrat.
…Barnes responded that there’s nothing unusual or unethical about the mailers.
“I’m sure they would call it that, but if you look into when legislators mail these out, they do it during the session and after the session,” Barnes said.
“It is not only perfectly ethical, it is common practice and a vital and needed way to communicate with constituents.”
“A lot of these are summarizing what we did in the legislative session to get feedback. It gives us the opportunity to plan for the next session.”
…Senate Democratic Leader Jim Kyle of Memphis called the accusation “unfounded criticism.”
“All legislative mail – from the content to the timing – is approved by the speaker’s office, therefore if they have an argument, they have to take it up with Speaker (Ron) Ramsey, who the last time I looked was a Republican,” Kyle said.
“And I guarantee he reads every one of those word for word.”


Note: For more on the ‘constituent communications’ accounts — which are exploited on a bipartisan basis — see this story written with the primary pending and mostly focused on how incumbents — Republicans included — transferred money from their accounts to help colleagues with the mailers under question.