CQ TODAY ONLINE NEWS
June 6, 2012 – 11:30 p.m.
Republicans Face Off Over Ads On the Web, Including Facebook
By Kerry Young and Rachael Bade, CQ Staff
For a new generation of lawmakers, the Internet is as important a communications tool as newsletters used to be. But Rep.
The House is due this month to consider a Flake amendment to the Legislative Branch appropriations bill (
The Appropriations Committee rejected Flake’s amendment. But he says the issue is becoming more important as the targeted use of Internet tools grows more sophisticated and more entrenched in campaign strategies. “We better nip this in the bud,” said Flake, who is running for the Senate. “This is a changing technology, and we better be ready and be ahead of the curve.”
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said lawmakers’ Web ads “represent a modern update on the power of incumbency.”
“Lawmakers are able to use taxpayer dollars to advance themselves and their re-election,” Ellis said. “When the country is facing a $15 trillion debt, we don’t need politicians finding new ways to spend taxpayer dollars, particularly on themselves.”
It appears that no congressional agency has tallied how much lawmakers are spending on Web ads. A check of forms filed with the Franking office by about 30 House members who spent more than $20,000 on mass communication during the first quarter of 2012 showed that almost two-thirds had bought Web ads during the past 12 months to publicize job fairs, town halls and other outreach events. Many lawmakers also tried to get constituents to “like” their Facebook pages or subscribe to electronic newsletters.
Scott’s ad on Facebook touting his willingness to cut office spending was one of more than a dozen he submitted to the Franking office. Aides to the congressman did not respond to requests for comment.
Huelskamp, a favorite of the tea party movement and a member of the conservative Republican Study Committee, estimated that he spent a bit more than $22,500 on Web ads but said his total spending last year was $143,000, or about 10 percent, below his allowance.
“You spend a very small portion of your budget reaching people, especially young people. We’ve seen the case here with this president — I give him credit for it — he’s really engaged young folks. And that’s who’s really using our new media,” Huelskamp said, calling Web ads “an opportunity to engage folks who traditionally have not been engaged in the system.”