Challenger Claims Byron Misused Taxpayer Money

But Law Allows Congresswoman's Mailings

January 22, 1992|By Kerry O'Rourke | Kerry O'Rourke,Staff writer

The challenger says the longtime incumbent misused taxpayer money tosend two newsletters to constituents who technically aren't yet members of her district.

The incumbent says her Democratic challenger is making much ado about nothing to avoid talking about the issues.

The law says it's OK for U.S. Rep. Beverly B. Byron, D-6th, to mail newsletters to about 30,000 Howard County residents who were addedto her district during redistricting last year.

The newsletters were sent to 252,000 households in Novemberand January, a Byron aide said.

At a press conference Monday at his campaign headquarters in Frederick, state Sen. Thomas H. Hattery, D-Frederick, Carroll, Howard, said the newsletters were campaign literature and should not have been sent at government expense.

"The taxpayers are paying for Mrs.Byron's campaign mailings," he said.

When the 6th District was redrawn last year, the portion of Montgomery County that had been included was dropped and about 30,000 more Howard residents were added. The district includes Carroll, Frederick, Allegany, Garrett and Washington counties.

A staffer at the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards -- known as the Franking Commission -- said Congresshas allowed members to send mailings during redistricting into the new areas since 1973.

Since 1991, Congress also has allowed membersto send mass mailings into an entire county even if the member represents only part of it. Members are allowed an average of $175,000 yearly for mailings, based on a formula.

Byron said challengers in the last three elections have raised the issue of newsletter mailings.

"It's a way of getting media attention," she said.

Hattery, a nine-term state delegate, is Byron's only Democratic challenger in theMarch 3 primary. Three Republican candidates also are vying for the seat, which Byron has occupied for 14 years.

Hattery has asked theFederal Election Commission and the House Administration Committee to rule on the legality of taxpayer-funded mailings to areas outside amember's district.

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