WASHINGTON – Households in the south Twin Cities metro congressional district represented by U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis recently received a mock check for $3,154 sent by his office.
“Bigger paychecks are here!” said the mailer. The other side highlighted companies in the district that have given out bonuses to employees following the major GOP tax bill passed last year. And it said that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act would give the average family of four in the district a $3,154 yearly tax cut, double the current standard deduction and expand the child tax credit to $2,000.
The first-term Republican spent more on taxpayer-funded mass mailings and communications last year — $143,986.74 — than any other Minnesota delegation member. In the last three months of 2017, he spent $52,958 on mass mailings and $27,031 on mass communications.
“Congressman Lewis feels strongly that he should be communicating with his constituents as much as his schedule permits,” spokeswoman Carter Moelk said in a prepared statement. “He also believes that informing the people of the Second District about the legislation he is sponsoring and how to get access to the constituent services team is a wise and beneficial use of resources.”
Lewis is the only freshman among Minnesota’s House members, and he arguably has to work harder than longtime incumbents to raise his profile despite his years as a talk radio personality. He faces one of Minnesota’s more competitive House races this fall, as well-funded Democratic challenger Angie Craig makes another play for the seat after losing to him in 2016.
Rachel Irwin, a spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it was “hypocritical of Jason Lewis to rail against reckless government spending” even as he spent more than his Minnesota colleagues on the mailings.
Overall, the Minnesota congressional delegation’s communications spending corresponds to the political competitiveness of their districts. That’s in line with a 2015 report by the Congressional Research Service, which noted that mass mailings have come under increased scrutiny as critics contend they amount to unsolicited, publicly funded campaign literature.
U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, spent $1,931 last year, and Republican Rep. Tom Emmer and Democratic Reps. Keith Ellison and Tim Walz spent no money on mass mailings and communications in 2017. All are expected to win re-election in November except for Walz, who’s leaving Congress to run for governor.
Republican U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen spent $59,261.45 last year. He’s defending his seat against another well-funded Democratic challenger, Dean Phillips.
Meanwhile, Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan spent $93,757.58 last year. His northeastern Minnesota district is home to some of the most competitive, expensive congressional campaigns in the nation in recent years. Nolan made a surprise announcement in February that he would leave Congress, spurring a range of Democrats to run in a primary as Republicans line up behind St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber.