Campaign Kick-Off 2005 Cost to Union County taxpayers $198,284.00
The mailer depicting a freeholder who is up for re-election which every household in Union County received the week of September 19, 2005, was not paid for by the freeholders’ campaign committee. Neither was the commercial that was contracted to run on Comcast between September 12 through the 25th, featuring the same freeholder.
The four-page, four-color mailer titled ‘Keeping Union County Families Healthy’, cost Union County taxpayers $55,460.00. The commercial with the same health care theme cost $142,824. Bringing this year's taxpayer-funded campaign kick-off media bonanza to $198,284.00.
The county has launched a similar media campaign in September for the past two years. In 2004 the cost of this campaign cost taxpayers $240,830.81; in 2003 it cost taxpayers $296,458.00.
For the past three years I have been keeping track of the county’s spending on mailers and commercials which are all timed around the primary and general elections. The county has defended this spending as need to inform the public about services. Besides the September media campaigns, there are several other mailers sent to residents. There are no 'We're connected to you' mailings or commercials aired during the rest of the year. Apparently the public only needs to be informed about services at election time.
On top of the costs for the production, printing, postage and cable buy, is the consulting fee that the media firm receives for designing and producing these campaigns. The company has a no-bid county contract in the form of a $6,000 monthly retainer ($72,000 annually) for consulting services alone. According to a local news report, this same firm has a $5,000 monthly retainer with the Union County Democratic Committee for campaign consulting.
The result of this moonlighting is that the mailers' design and color schemes are identical and they usually feature the same freeholders. A recipient of these mailers would have to look at the piece very closely to tell if the message is coming from the Democrat freeholder campaign or their Union County government.
The Union County Republican Committee has issued a press release demanding that this commercial be pulled from the air (it wasn’t) and has warned that they will file charges with the ELEC Board if the Democrats don’t claim these expenses on their October election reports as campaign expenditures. If ELEC rules against the Democrats it could lead to their campaign being fined as well as them having to pay back the county for these expenditures.
The Union County Watchdog Association is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization working on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of Union County monitoring the activity of county government and advocating change to eliminate waste, corruption and incompetence. We will be monitoring these 2005 ELEC abuses closely. If the Union County Republican Committee doesn’t take the promised steps, then we will live up to our mission statement and file the complaints on behalf of the residents and taxpayers of Union County.
This is no small sum of money. Over the past three years to date these mailings and commercials as well as consulting fees cost Union County taxpayers approximately $1,439,868.00. This is a lot of money that is being diverted from services and is an egregious abuse of the public trust.
For more information on taxpayer funded mailings, please visit our website at www.unioncountywatchdog.org