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Staff photo by Don Himsel

Frank Guinta talks with Telegraph reporters and editors Tuesday, October 19, 2010.
Sunday, April 29, 2012

Guinta, Shea-Porter Duel Over Franked Mail

WASHINGTON – Rep. Frank Guinta, R-N.H., spent more on taxpayer-funded mailings – so-called “franked” mail – in 2011 than any other member of the House, according to the most recent compilation of disbursements published by the House’s chief administrative officer.

Guinta, who in 2010 criticized his Democratic opponent, then-Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, for her use of franked mailings, spent $164,649 on franked mail last year. That, in turn, prompted criticism of Guinta last week by the House Majority political action committee, a so-called “super PAC” focused on helping the Democrats regain control of the House this November.

“It sure didn’t take long for Frank Guinta to embrace the ways of House GOP hypocrisy,” said Andy Stone, the House Majority PAC’s communications director. “After criticizing his opponent for the practice, Guinta not only began doing the same thing, but despite calling it a ‘waste’ and ‘unnecessary,’ spent more taxpayer dollars than any other member of Congress in doing so.”

Guinta wrote on his campaign website in 2010: “There is a thin line between maintaining a rapport with one’s constituents and electioneering. There must be a more efficient and most importantly, less costly way to distribute these papers.”

He continued: “I am running to eliminate waste and reel in unnecessary spending – unlike Carol Shea-Porter. This is a small example of how reduction in expenditures begins.”

A Guinta spokesman, Ethan Zorfas, said Tuesday that Guinta’s office had made a significant cut of 11.4 percent in its office allowance in 2011 and had returned more than $50,000 of allocated money for franked mail to the U.S. Treasury.

According to Zorfas, many of the mailings sent to constituents using the congressional franking privilege were invitations to jobs fairs, women’s conferences and a manufacturing jobs summit.

“Constituent services are always going to be Congressman Guinta’s top priority,” Zorfas said.

In a statement Tuesday, Shea-Porter, who is seeking a rematch this year, said, “Congressman Guinta has been using the taxpayer-paid fliers as a campaign tool to constantly pound the same inaccurate story that he is preserving and protecting Medicare and Social Security – because he knows that senior citizens vote, they’ve heard of his attacks on these programs and his efforts to privatize them, and he is politically vulnerable.”

But Shea-Porter was at the center of a franking-related controversy in 2010, when she obtained a list of graduating high school students to send them congratulatory letters, using her franking privilege at a cost of $1,059.

At the time, it was suggested by Shea-Porter’s critics that, in obtaining the students’ personal details and sending the letters directly to their homes, Shea-Porter may have violated state law, which states:

“No personally identifiable information, including but not limited to name, date of birth, gender, or Social Security number, shall be provided to any person or entity absent a court order, and under no circumstances shall personally identifiable information be provided to any person or entity outside of New Hampshire.”

Naomi Andrews, a Shea-Porter spokeswoman, said Shea-Porter had used the franking privilege to send “informative pieces about legislation, events and office services” while pointing to three specific mailings sent by Guinta’s office directed at seniors.

“There is not any new information,” Andrews said. “It’s just pounding a message.”

According to Andrews, Shea-Porter’s office spent $62,479 on franked mail in 2009 and $89,212 in 2010.

During her time in Congress, Shea-Porter ran two offices in New Hampshire – one in Manchester and one in Dover – and Guinta closed the Dover office after entering Congress.

“Mr. Guinta is the first congressman to close down the Seacoast office,” Andrews said. “He should have a lot more money left over.”

In comparison to the $164,649 spent by Guinta last year, Rep. Charles Bass, R-N.H., spent $22,344 on franked mailings in 2011 and ranks 202nd among the 435 House members, according to the House chief administrative officer.