Mack the target of House ethics complaint over 'penny plan' mailer

Congressman Connie Mack IV

Congressman Connie Mack IV

— A Broward County man has filed an ethics complaint against Rep. Connie Mack, contending the Fort Myers Republican sent a government mailer to voters outside of his Southwest Florida congressional district.

Timothy "Chaz" Stevens, a Deerfield Beach blogger, filed a complaint with the U.S. House of Representatives' Office of Congressional Ethics. The complaint states that Mack — not the vendor who sent the mailer — should have reimbursed the federal government for expenses incurred.

By not doing so, Stevens said in his June 12 ethics complaint, the vendor's reimbursement should be considered a campaign contribution to Mack, who is running for a U.S. Senate seat in Florida.

"The bottom line is, when it's all said and done, (the vendor) gave Connie Mack $18,000 in advertising," Stevens said.

The mailer, which touted Mack's penny plan to reduce spending by 1 percent, was sent to about 90,300 homes across the state, according to a May 10 report in the Tampa Bay Times. About 64 percent of the mailings were sent to homes outside of his district.

Mack reported the situation to the House Franking Commission, said David James, a campaign spokesman. Mack said in a May 9 letter to the commission that any violation of House Franking caused by William McClintock Associates, the vendor, was unintentional and not directed by his office.

Mack went on to say that "within minutes of learning of the error" he directed staff to take steps to fix it. The company, in a May 9 letter to Mack, admitted the error and said it would reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the cost of postage.

The firm, which has done work for Mack's U.S. Senate campaign, cut a check for $17,991 that same day.

The Franking Commission, a bipartisan committee that approves the content of mailers, called the mailing an "unfortunate mistake that does occur from time to time."

The Franking Commission, a bipartisan committee that approves the content of mailers, called the mailing an "unfortunate mistake that does occur from time to time."

The committee's chairman said the letter was reviewed before the mailer was sent and concluded it was in compliance with the committee's rules and regulations, and therefore "no further action will be taken by the Franking Commission."

That ruling, however, didn't satisfy Stevens, who on May 14 filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission. Stevens said in the complaint the firm's reimbursement "constitutes a campaign contribution, and as such exceeds the maximum allowable by law."

The FEC responded on June 4 that Stevens' complaint didn't meet specific requirements outlined in the Federal Election Campaign Act, so the agency couldn't take action unless the allegations were filed to meet the requirements for a properly filed complaint.

Stevens said he contacted the elections commission to inquire further, and a spokesman said the commission "couldn't opine whether it was right or wrong."

Stevens said after the FEC declined to look into the issue further, he decided to file a similar complaint with the House ethics commission. That complaint was filed on June 12 and contends the reimbursement "constituted a benefit of Mack and thereby a campaign contribution, and as such, exceeded the maximum allowable by law."

Stevens said he doesn't expect anything to come of his complaint, but is hopeful it will start a discussion about what he perceives as a problem.

© 2012 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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