Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) is running campaign-style Web ads for a “tele-town hall” on “out of control spending” that are financed by taxpayer dollars — and the ads were OKed as permissible under House rules.
The ads, which you can check out one version of below, are set on an American flag background and include a red-white-and-blue button that reads “Congressman.”The words “OUT OF CONTROL SPENDING” appear in large white letters on a blue background. The ads include a note saying they are paid for by official funds.
They were approved by the Committee on House Administration, which is in charge of authorizing spending by members, according to Roskam Communications Director Dan Conston. (See the approval letter here.)
“Clearly out of control spending and our massive national debt are relevant to our constituents,” Conston tells TPMmuckraker.
Conston says Roskam’s office has bought Google ads for the last four or five tele-town halls conducted by the congressman. “We find it very valuable that we are reaching non traditional voters — really disenfranchised voters, specifically younger voters,” he says.
Here’s one version of the ad:
In tele-town halls, which have been used by multiple members of congress, a company is hired which calls thousands of households for what is essentially a mega-conference call. Those who pick up the phone can listen to the congressman talking about the issue at hand, and press a button to offer a question.
In Roskam’s case, the calls typically go out to just under 100,000 households.
He has done over 25 such calls since taking office in 2007. Roskam, who represents Illinois’ 6th district, has been called a “rising star” in the GOP caucus and is heavily favored to win reelection in the fall.
Under House ethics rules, members may hold town halls one of two ways: either “arranged, promoted, and put on entirely or almost entirely using official allowances” or “as political events, organized and funded by their campaigns.”
According to Attorney Stan Brand, who was previously general counsel to the House, a taxpayer-funded town hall would only be in violation of House rules if it was explicitly campaign-related.