Tuesday, August 13, 2002

Lucas abusing mailing privileges, foe claims

By Patrick Crowley pcrowley@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        COVINGTON - Democratic U.S. Rep. Ken Lucas is abusing the privilege that allows members of Congress to spend taxpayers' dollars on mass mailing to constituents, his Republican opponent charged Monday.

        Republican Geoff Davis said the 158,000 pieces of mail Mr. Lucas has sent to 4th Congressional District residents this summer - at a cost to taxpayers of $27,000 - are little more than veiled campaign pieces designed not to inform but to elicit votes.

        “Ken Lucas has violated the trust of Kentucky's hard-working families by this obvious abuse of taxpayer dollars,” Mr. Davis, a Boone County Republican, said during a news conference in front of the Kenton County Administration Building.

        One mailing pictures a group of doctors with the caption, “Protecting Your Family's Health is Their Job.”

        “Ken Lucas Believes It's His Job Too,” the mailer reads, and then states in capital letters that Mr. Lucas is “fighting for a patient's bill of rights” legislation.

        “The phraseology is that of a piece of campaign literature,” said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato, who called Mr. Lucas' mailings “outrageous” and “unbelievable” after viewing pieces the Congressman has mailed.

        In a statement, Mr. Lucas defended the mailings and pointed out that the pieces were reviewed and approved by the bipartisan Commission on Congressional Mailings and Standards, also known as the Franking Commission.

        “I have a responsibility to communicate with my constituents and keep them updated on issues in Washington,” Mr. Lucas said. “Keeping the people informed has always been extremely important to me; and whenever I travel the district, folks often thank me for keeping them apprised of key issues affecting their lives.”

        Ben Davis, Mr. Lucas' campaign manager and no relation to Geoff Davis, said every member of Congress uses the mailing privilege - known as the franking privilege - to communicate with constituents.

        “This always comes up in election years with the challenger making these baseless charges about mailings,” Ben Davis said Monday from Eastern Kentucky, where Mr. Lucas made a campaign swing Monday.

        “The fact is franking is allowed by law and Congressman Lucas, just like every other member of Congress, uses the mail to do what he should do, let people know what is going on with issues in Washington.”

        Geoff Davis contends Mr. Lucas is more eager to communicate - and spend taxpayers' money - during election years.

        Using figures the Congressional Office of Budget and Management Mr. Davis showed that in 1999 and 2001, off years for Congressional elections, Mr. Lucas spent $25,739 and $21,389 on franked mailings.

        In 2000, when Mr. Lucas won a second term by defeating Oldham County Republican Don Bell, the Congressman spent $80,828.

        “These (mailings) do not represent showing stewardship to the taxpayers,” Mr. Davis said. “It doesn't represent effective leadership. Frankly, to me, this is dishonorable behavior.”

        Ben Davis said statements such as that “show our opponent has no idea what it takes to serve in Congress if he calls communicating with constituents dishonorable.”

        Citing figures from the Franking Commission, Ben Davis said that in 2001 three Republican members of Congress from Kentucky each spent more than Mr. Lucas - First District U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield ($46,334), Second District U.S. Rep. Ed Lewis ($45,547) and Sixth District U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher ($28,051).

        “We're on a four-day listening tour, talking to voters and groups about issues that are important to them in Washington,” Ben Davis said. “Geoff Davis is holding a circus act and making another groundless partisan attack when we are out talking to people about Ken Lucas' record of serving the 4th District as a common-sense conservative.”

        The Courier-Journal contributed.


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