Vote on franking bill revives ‘Spendy Scott’ nickname

Last year, when fiscal conservative Rep. Scott Tipton took some flack for his free spending ways, the Colorado Pols website predicted: “How Tipton will continue to perpetuate his ‘smaller government’ image despite his big spending ways will be vital to his re-election in 2012. ‘Spendy’ Scott Tipton isn’t the kind of moniker he’ll be looking for.”

Colorado Pols was reacting to the new last year that “Tipton spent more money on staff salaries in the first quarter of 2011 than any other freshman member of Congress ... and it’s not even close.”

Tipton was one of only 17 of 59 incoming freshmen representatives to spend over $200,000 in his first four months in office. At $243,431, Tipton’s expenditures exceeded those of the second place spender by more than $10,000 and the third place by more that $20,000.

Anticipating that Tipton might claim the size of his district as an explanation, Pols pointed out that Tipton’s predecessor, John Salazar, spent only $153,013 in his first four months in office in 2005.

Maybe last year’s experience is why, just two days before he voted against a proposal to cut 10 percent from the postal franking budget, Tipton issued a press release trumpeting his amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill targeting “blatant federal waste.”

The Tipton amendment forbids the inclusion of small sums with Bureau of Reclamation surveys to encourage participation by the public.

As indicated by the 355-51 bipartisan vote to pass the bill, paying citizens to return — or not return — survey forms is bad economics and worse social science. Most sensible people would agree with Tipton that this is no way for a federal agency to collect data.

But to tout this legislation as a significant move against “blatant federal waste” of taxpayer money stretches the truth. In the only case Tipton cites, last year the Bureau of Reclamation mailed survey forms to 11,000 families. “Each packet included ... a $2 bill ... to encourage people to respond — totaling $22,000 American taxpayer dollars.”

Another 286 respondents were paid $20 each for responding after a second mailing, adding another $5,720 to government costs. The total government waste amounts to $27,720, not including the cost of shipping or mailing the packages.

Since this $27,720 was spent in 2011, Tipton’s bill saves nothing for the government this year. No basis is offered to estimate future costs, but any savings are likely to be small.

While Tipton deserves credit for curtailing a bad survey practice, he does little with this amendment to cut the federal budget.

For a politician who ran on a ridiculous promise to cut the federal budget in half, Tipton comes up short with this amendment.

He could have made a more convincing case for himself by touting his repeated votes to cut Medicare, education and other social programs, including benefits for homeless veterans.

Tipton had an excellent chance to burnish his credentials as a serious proponent of reducing the federal budget with his vote on an amendment to the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2013. A “Yes” vote was to cut the use of congressional franking privileges for official mail by 10 percent.

The purpose of the amendment was to cut funding for mailing expensive campaign materials and holding telephone town hall meetings that have more to do with re-election than with informing constituents about official legislative business.

Tipton was one of 230 Repulicans and 79 Democrats who voted against the amendment.

Sal Pace,  a Democrat who is running against Tipton in Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District, said in a press release, “Congressman Tipton spent $33,759.36 on these campaign-style mailers in 2012 alone and sent over $25,000 to his nephew’s firm to promote himself.”

Pace cited a recent account in USA Today that reported, “House members sent out more than 77 million pieces of unsolicited glossy campaign-style mail at a cost of $28 million to taxpayers in just nine months last year.”

So, while fiscal conservative Tipton brags about his amendment to save a theoretical $27,720, he leaves untouched the $28 million used mostly to get him and his colleagues — of both parties — re-elected at taxpayer expense.

“No wonder a majority of Americans think Washington is broken,” Pace said. “My opponent is a prime example of why.”

“Spendy Scott” may not be the moniker Tipton wants, but it is the one he has earned.

Bill Grant lives in Grand Junction. He he can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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