Mailings are wise use of resources

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Rep. Rod Blum, guest columnist

Recently The Gazette published an editorial critical of the way my congressional office utilizes the budget allotted to us by the House of Representatives. Predictably The Gazette has deemed newsworthy yet another Democrat diversion being peddled out of Washington. They don’t want to talk about why the economy still is struggling, the national debt still is climbing and our border still is not secure so they shift the focus with distractions like this.

First of all, it’s important to understand that members of Congress receive roughly the same budget allotment each year. Within that budget and limited by the House’s rules, Representatives are free to choose how those resources are allocated. Staff salaries, office overhead, official travel, constituent communications, and all other allowable official expenses are taken from this budget.

Representatives are even allowed to use their budgets to fly first class and lease luxury vehicles — perks that I’ve worked hard to eliminate through bipartisan legislation that I’ve introduced. Unfortunately my efforts have not been given a vote in the House, much like the other legislation I’ve backed to enact term limits, eliminate the Congressional pension program, and to tie Congressional pay to the wages of average Americans.

It’s absolutely true that we’ve chosen to devote a significant amount of resources to communicating with our constituents, more so than any other member of Congress in fact. We see this as a huge positive for the First District and it’s something I’m very proud of. Constituents constantly come up and thank me for keeping them informed. They want to know what is happening in Washington and we communicate closely with them so they can hold Washington accountable, learn how our office can help them, and tell us how they feel about the issues.

Communicating takes many forms: fliers and ads notifying Eastern Iowans about the many constituent services events we host, like our Seniors Wellness Fairs, Veterans Care Fairs, and Career Fairs; tele-townhalls that allow thousands of constituents to connect with us directly and newsletters about my positions on issues that include constituent surveys so that citizens can inform us about their views as well. All these constituent communications are preapproved and in accordance with U.S. House rules and standards.

Another key point that The Gazette failed to mention is that our office actually returned over $100,000 to the taxpayers from our 2015 office budget. We did this because I believe it is important to lead the way ourselves if we expect the rest of the government to act fiscally responsible as well. It’s the same reason I recently introduced the Fiscal Responsibility Act to cut Congress’ pay if we don’t balance the budget — another of our office’s actions that went unreported by The Gazette.

I think we all understand what’s really going on here. Election season is gearing up and the Democrat operatives in DC are pushing political attacks that they think will hurt my re-election instead of focusing on the policy issues that matter to Iowans. Despite their attacks, I’ll continue to work hard serving my constituents to the best of my ability, which includes staying in close communication with the people I represent.

• U.S. Rep Rod Blum, R-Dubuque, represents Iowa’s 1st Congressional District. Comments: (319) 364-2288; 310 Third St. SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

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