There has been somewhat of a scandal percolating in the local North Dakota media relating to Rick Berg’s prodigal use of his franking privileges in Congress. Throughout the history of Congress, congressmen were afforded “franking privileges” as a way of facilitating communication between a member and his constituents. In plain English, this refers to the right of members to mail correspondence to constituents at no cost using their official congressional signature (frank). Because sitting members enjoy this free means of communication over their prospective challengers, they must use it sparingly and refrain from using it for overtly political mailings.
It is for this reason why North Dakota Congressman Rick Berg is drawing ire for his $190,000 worth of direct mailings in 2011. Berg sent out 5 mailings in just 6 weeks towards the end of the year. The total cost accounts for a whopping 15% of the operating budget for Berg’s office. However, the real scandal here isn’t the cost of the mailings (it doesn’t appear that any franking rules were violated); it is the content of the mailings.
Among the statements made on Berg’s mailings are falsehoods like “Rick Berg is fighting hard for a Balanced Budget Amendment, voted to cut trillions in government spending, and is working to make fundamental reforms that fix Washington.”
We often ridicule the blue dog Democrats for aligning themselves with the left in DC, while ingratiating themselves with their conservative constituents back home. We must do the same for those Republicans that represent conservative districts, yet vote liberal in Washington.
The fact is that during his short tenure in Washington, he voted for legislation that will ensure that the budget is never balanced and that spending will remain out of control; legislation that will ‘fundamentally’ perpetuate the bad habits of Washington. Berg voted for the debt deal, the minibus, and the FY 2011 CR. All these bills continued funding for Obamacare, even though he bragged about voting to repeal it on all his mailings. Berg also voted against every attempt by RSC members to cut extra spending. You name the subsidy, he supported it. He cosponsored a bill to continue subsidizing the impotent Wind industry. Berg received a 63% from Heritage Action and 54% from the Club for Growth.
One would expect that a new member from a conservative state who fails to live up to his promise to limit government would call it quits. Quite the contrary, Rick Berg is looking for a promotion after such a short, yet “stellar”, tenure in the House. He is seeking the open Senate seat being vacated by Kent Conrad. Everyone is writing off the Senate race and ceding it to him. Senator John Hoeven, who sports a comparable voting record, just endorsed him. But we must ask ourselves what sort of message it would send to not only reelect one of these pledge breakers, but to bestow him with a promotion.
In the coming days, we are committed to ensuring that the nominees for the House and Senate seats in North Dakota are conservative. Or at least, ones who will not need $190,000 worth of mailings to obfuscate their big-government record.