WASHINGTON – A House Democrat said Wednesday a Republican committee chairman broke House rules by mailing more than 175,000 fliers touting a Bush administration decision to keep Yellowstone (search) and Grand Teton (search) national parks open to snowmobilers.
Rep. Betty McCollum (search), D-Minn., learned of the fliers — produced and mailed over the last month for $68,081, at taxpayer expense — when a constituent complained last week. Republicans are "using any means possible to promote their agenda, and the re-election of the president," she said.
McCollum said she is considering filing an ethics complaint or demanding that Rep. Richard Pombo (search), R-Calif., chairman of the House Resources Committee, reimburse the government for the expense. The fliers were sent to 166,000 residents in Minnesota and Wisconsin and to 9,658 residents in Montana and Wyoming.
"It's a complete violation of House rules, and I'm outraged by it," McCollum said.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are considered battleground states in this year's presidential election; Bush is expected to win big majorities in Montana and Wyoming.
Resources committee spokesman Brian Kennedy said the mailings were approved in advance by the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards (search).
"No rules were broken, everything was aboveboard. Any allegation of wrongdoing or sinister intent is absolutely false and absurd," Kennedy said. "If anything, the chairman believes that we should be doing more of this."
The fliers promote Bush's stance that snowmobiles should still be allowed at Yellowstone and Grand Teton because of new technology that makes them quieter and less polluting.
The fliers read: "The House Resources Committee (search) is working with President Bush to ensure that snowmobilers have access to our national parks and recreation areas. You can rest assured that the House Resources Committee and the Bush Administration are working together to protect your right to ride."
House members — all of whom are up for re-election this fall — cannot use taxpayer money to send mass mailings within 90 days of any election in which they are a candidate.
Committee chairmen are among the few exceptions, but only to send "normal and regular business" such as press releases or hearing schedules. The rules specifically prohibit sending "a newsletter which is suddenly issued by a committee" during the 90-day cutoff.
Six earlier fliers sent by Pombo's GOP committee staff cost taxpayers up to $90,000 to print and mail, Kennedy said. Of the combined $158,081 that was spent for the six previous and the latest mailed fliers, $100,000 was for postage, he said.