Members of Congress use tax-funded radio ads to tout their work | News, Sports, Jobs


Some may look like campaign ads, but congressman radio ads are taxpayer-funded and go through a bipartisan process to get aired.

In the Mahoning Valley, U.S. Representatives Bill Johnson, R-Marietta and Dave Joyce, R-Bainbridge broadcast radio advertisements with the closing disclaimer: “Paid from official funds authorized by the House of Representatives.”

The two are also running for re-election in the newly drawn districts with Johnson seeking to represent the 6th which has Mahoning as the most populous county, and Joyce in the 14th which has Trumbull as the second most populous county.

“They’re using taxpayer dollars to campaign indirectly,” said Paul Sracic, a professor of political science at Youngstown State University. “There are tons of unfair advantages for incumbents. It’s one of them. This is an incumbent advantage. You have this money to get your name out there. For uninformed voters, if they vote, they’ll say, “I’ll vote for the guy or the woman who’s here now.” This creates name identification, as many people do not know who their congressman is.

The money for the ads comes from each congressional office’s annual operating budget of about $1.3 million, which is funded by taxpayer dollars and is called a member’s representational allowance. Other allowable expenses include staff salaries, travel within the district and to and from Washington, D.C., and district office rent and utilities.

While communications with voters — known as postage privileges — have been permitted since 1789, it’s only been just over three years since radio and online advertisements from Congressional offices have authorized, according to the US House Communications Standards Commission, which is overseen by the House Administration Committee.

“Costs associated with the delivery of prepaid mail are paid for with taxpayers’ money from the official funds of the Office of the Authorized User of Frank and Other Official Communications,” according to the commission’s communications standards manual.

Ads must stop at least 60 days before a primary or general election.

“It indirectly recognizes that there is a hint of campaigning,” Sracic said.

Each ad must be approved by the bipartisan commission before it airs to determine whether the content is “official congressional business,” according to the commission.

The slogan that ads are “paid for by official funds authorized by the House of Representatives” may cause some “backsliding” for members of Congress, although “neither of them is at risk of losing their seat”, has Sracic said of Johnson and Joyce.

“You can see more populist voters being a bit irritated by that,” he said.


Johnson’s office has spent about $60,000 so far this year on two radio ads.

An ad shows a woman as if leaving a voicemail for Johnson saying she and her husband can’t afford gas and asking what’s going on.

In response, Johnson said, “That’s a real concern. Not so long ago, America was energy independent. But not more. Washington regulations, red tape and faulty policies have led to record gasoline prices, soaring energy costs and runaway inflation. The numbers on the gas pump and the grocery store checkout add up too quickly.

He then adds that he will “fight for energy solutions that help workers and families in Ohio” and urges the listener to visit his congressional website and “stand with me in demanding independence. energy, lower gas prices, lower inflation and a stronger economy.”

The other radio spot has someone saying he’s a veteran who finds “dealing with the VA about health care difficult and tedious.”

Johnson responds that he is an Air Force veteran and that “fighting to improve services for our veterans” has been “a priority since day one.” He adds that he’s committed to helping his constituents “navigate Washington’s bureaucracy, whether it’s the VA, Social Security, passports, IRS or some other agency.” federal”.

Ben Keeler, Johnson’s spokesman, said the congressman is “always looking for new ways to get his message across to reach as many of his constituents as possible in Ohio’s 6th District. His recent radio ads, which have been approved by the bipartisan postage commission, are no different.He feels it is important to let those he serves know that his office is there to help navigate the bureaucratic red tape of the federal government and the advise on its position on critical issues such as runaway inflation and rising energy prices.

Keeler added: “He will continue to communicate with those he serves in every way possible and as effectively as possible to reach as many people as possible while keeping in mind that this is about people’s money. taxpayers. His office in Congress has returned more than $780,000 to the US Treasury over the past five years.

Campbell’s Louis Lyras, Johnson’s Democratic general election challenger, called the ads “gratuitous publicity.” Well, it’s not free because it’s taxpayers’ money. This gives him an unfair advantage. He’s got this extra airtime, and I have to watch my budget. Any mailing or publicity with taxpayers’ money is for his benefit. I don’t like it, but that’s how it is. »


Joyce’s congressional office runs three radio ads. His office has not revealed how much has been spent on ads so far this year.

In one ad, Joyce says, “Record gasoline prices and sky-high energy bills have hit us hard here in northeast Ohio. We have the solution to this crisis: resources generated right here in the United States. That’s why I’m working in Congress to restore our energy independence, free up America’s resources, and provide Ohio families with affordable, reliable energy. It is an honor to work for you.

Another has Joyce saying, “Our economy is broken. Inflation, rising energy prices and runaway government spending are hurting families in northeast Ohio. That’s why I’m working on policies in Congress that will help curb wasteful spending, support small businesses, and lower prices at the grocery store and gas station. It is an honor to represent you in our nation’s capital.

The third is Joyce saying he wants to make sure the federal government is working for you and if his constituents need help with a federal agency “my office is here to help you cut through the red tape and navigate the Washington bureaucracy”.

Regarding the ads, Joyce said, “One of my most important responsibilities is keeping my constituents fully informed about my work in Congress and helping them navigate the bureaucratic bureaucracy in Washington. I take great pride in representing the communities where I was born and raised and will continue to do my best to communicate with the people of Northeast Ohio in the most comprehensive and effective way possible. .

He added, “They deserve to know what their representative’s position is on the challenges they face and what help is available to them when dealing with the federal government.”

Katherine Sears, spokeswoman for Joyce, said the congresswoman “takes fiscal responsibility just as seriously as he takes his duty to keep his constituents informed.”

Joyce, who is serving her fifth two-year term, returned more than $1 million in taxpayer dollars during her time in Congress to the US Treasury from her office budget.

Matt Kilroy of Deerfield, Joyce’s Democratic opponent in the November election, said: “These are all very political plays. This is not David talking about trying to do his best for his constituents. These are clearly political. It’s straight out of the Republican playbook and paid for with taxpayers’ money. It is clearly he who is making election propaganda at the expense of taxpayers’ money. To say that’s an unfair advantage is a huge understatement.


US Representative Tim Ryan, D-Howland, candidate for the Senate, did not air any official radio advertisements from the Congressional office.

So far this year, Ryan’s office has spent $5,225 on online ads, said Caty Payette, his spokeswoman.

The online ads, which are about three minutes long compared to 30-second radio ads, get women talking about Ryan’s constituent services.

Ryan does not appear in either ad.

Vincent Peterson II, a community liaison officer in his office in Warren and the Democratic candidate for the 64th district of Ohio House, is featured in one and Jason Miller, a community liaison officer in his office in Akron, is in the ‘other.

In one ad, a Trumbull County woman laid off during the COVID-19 pandemic talks about her problems getting unemployment insurance until she called Ryan’s office and Peterson helped her.

“Tim Ryan being our congressman, he was able to help me solve this problem in a matter of weeks,” she said.

In the other ad, a Summit County woman whose husband, a Marine, died after drinking contaminated water at Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina, says she received letters from a hospital in ‘Akron mistakenly billing him for years $6,400 in medical bills and Ryan’s office, per Miller, managed to reduce it to $250.

“The needs and well-being of the hard-working people of Ohio’s 13th congressional district continue to be Congressman Ryan’s top priority,” Payette said. “That’s why the Congressman and his team continue to use the most effective tools available to us to connect with the people of Northeast Ohio where they are – whether in person or online – and make sure they know where to access all the federal resources available to them.”

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