Today we learned that last year, Congressman Frank Guinta spent more taxpayers’ money on franked mail than any of the other 434 House members. The Bakersfield Californian first reported that Guinta spent $164,650 on postage, several times more than the average of $33,460.
The franking privilege allows House members to send mail to their constituents using tax funds for postage. It is part of the allowance each House member receives for office expenses, staff salaries, travel and other costs. A detailed record of the expenses are available to the public in the Statement of Disbursements of the House.
Clearly Guinta is operating a well-funded marketing machine. Along with his extraordinary franked mail expenses, Guinta spent $116,756 on printing and reproduction costs, ranking him 8th in the House in that category.
But Guinta brags that he did not spend all of his $1.4 million office allowance. So if he outspent every other member on mail and printing expenses, how did he make up the difference? Guinta saved money by not hiring staff. For the year, Guinta spent just $743,198 on personnel compensation, $200,000 less than the average Representative and ranking him 418 among the 435 members.
That, in a nutshell, highlights Guinta’s approach to the office, which is to devote money and resources to marketing rather than legislative expertise and constituent service. And it might explain some of those episodes like his embarrassing display of ineptitude in a committee hearing with Elizabeth Warren.