NYS Exposed Follow-up: The cost of throw-away flyers

NYS Exposed Follow-up: The cost of throw-away flyers

March 24, 2017 02:41 PM

ROCHESTER -- Before the election, News10NBC reported on a number of local lawmakers who were using your tax dollars to send out flashy mailers reminding you of their accomplishments in Albany.

While most state representatives send a few legislative mailers every year, we saw a significant increase in the frequency of bulk mail during the spring and summer of 2016, leading up to the primary and general election. In many cases, the flyers looked like campaign-mailers but they weren’t being paid for with campaign donations.

Due to a lag time in financial reporting, we’re only now getting a clear picture of just how much the mailers cost.

"We're talking about just the postage here, $7 million in six months alone. It doesn't include the cost of color printing, or paper, or the printers, or the staff that designs it, the staff that moves it around from the printer to the post office, this is a really expensive proposition,” says Ken Girardin, of the Empire Center.

All of the state lawmakers who represent the Rochester area spend thousands every year on bulk mail but a pattern has emerged. Most tend to spend more in election years. Rochester Assemblyman Harry Bronson was in a heated primary race last year; new data publically available on shows he spent more on these mailers then, compared to any other year since he was elected.

Jennifer Lewke (News10NBC): "You spent $34,000 roughly in March, another $31,000 in September, why do you believe in these legislative mailers?"
Harry Bronson: "Because it’s important for me to communicate with the people I represent. What these mailers do is it tells them things that I’ve worked on or things that I’m working on."

Jennifer Lewke: "The fact of the matter is, you spent the most last year that you’ve ever spent as an Assemblyperson and it was an election year."
Harry Bronson: "It’s a coincidence, I've said that before and I'll say it again... it was a coincidence and I could explain, as well once again that the reality was we usually have a regular time schedule when I send out those mailers and what happened last year was a change in the staffing. It got delayed, they got sent out later."

Jennifer Lewke: "So, you're saying it's pure coincidence, you didn't plan these mailers because it was an election year?"
Harry Bronson: "Your accusations are not based in reality."
Jennifer Lewke: "I’m not accusing you of anything. I'm using your words, you said it's pure coincidence."
Harry Bronson: "But you put the context in and I'm saying you're drawing a connection that doesn't exist."

Here’s a look at Assemblyman Bronson’s spending on bulk mail:

2011 - $24,178

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2012 - $44,280

2013 - $33,410

2014 - $48,728

2015 - $12,690

2016 - $66,102

"The data shows it's not a coincidence.We regularly see an uptick in spending on legislative mail ahead of general elections, when state lawmakers are up for re-election, that's a fact,” Girardin says.  And it’s not just Assemblyman Bronson, the data indicates every other elected official in the Rochester area aside from Assemblyman Joe Morelle spends more on bulk mail in election years and it’s perfectly legal.

State lawmakers are allowed to use your tax dollars for legislative mailers so long as it’s not within 30 days of a primary or 60 days of the general election. The only other rule bans the representative from directly asking for your vote or your support/opposition of a ballot proposal.

It’s likely there won’t be a change in those rules anytime soon. As News10NBC reported a few months ago, the NYS Assembly spent $900,000 on a new printer last year to make more flashy flyers. Also, the one way spending on this mail can be limited is if sitting lawmakers decide to push for it and right now, they’re the ones who are directly benefiting from it.


Jennifer Lewke

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