Thanks to transparency measures instituted by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) last summer, constituents now have online access to the Statements of Disbursements, a "quarterly public report of all receipts and expenditures for Members of Congress, Committees, Leadership, House Officers and Offices of the House of Representatives." This publication includes each representative's Member Representation Allowance which is the individual budget each Member is given to run their D.C. and District offices. The SOD fact sheet says, for most Members, these budgets ranged from $1.3 to $1.9 million for 2009.
The most current report is published in three volumes totaling over 3,000 pages and includes the period from July 1 to September 30 of 2009. The online version can be accessed as a single pdf or three separate files corresponding to the three published volumes. The report includes details of each expenditure which is processed and evaluated by the House's Office of Financial Counseling, handling over 4,000 of these per week.
The office expenditures for Idaho 1st District Congressman Walt Minnick are included in the second volume and a snip of the summary is shown below. The quarterly amount is shown in the column on the right and the left column contains the year-to-date totals.
One interesting expenditure during this period was a printing and reproduction expense of $30,800 made to Erwin and Muir Public Affairs for work done on August 11, followed ten days later by a franked mail expense of $24,327.
Erwin & Muir is a public affairs and political consulting agency located in Oakland, California. They
... know how to untangle a complex issue or political situation, and create a solution through solid analysis, strategy and management. Whether you are a political candidate or committee, or an organization with an issue to resolve, we can design a program for you that will deliver the right message to the right audience. We know how to deliver wins.
Their services include:
- General consulting for campaigns
- Grassroots organizing
- Direct mail
According to the website, the agency portfolio includes "direct mail and vote-by-mail pieces on behalf of candidates for president, senate, congress, assembly, supervisor and city council" which also claims to provide "eye-catching mail that provides voters with the information they need to make an informed choice on Election Day."
Apparently Walt Minnick used his taxpayer-funded office budget to hire a political consulting agency to create a slick direct mail piece that was then mailed at taxpayer expense to residents of Idaho's 1st District, or at least some portion of them. And apparently all legitimately, according to the office which handles tens of thousands of expenditures per quarter.
Not having received the mailing, although residing in the 1st District, it'll take some speculation as to the "complex issue or political situation" Minnick needed help "untangling" at that time—but not much. Who could forget the summer health care reform fight and the August teabagger recess?
Walt Minnick needed a campaign consultant to design an "eye-catching" piece of direct mail convincing voters of the 1st District that they didn't want any of the dangerous, big-government, socialized medicine health care reform plans that he would later tell Politico his constituents just didn't understand? And we paid for that?