Tricky Doug

Keeping tabs on Congressional District 1’s incumbent

Doug LaMalfa is getting beat up on social media—including by his challenger for Congressional District 1, Audrey Denney—over a recent gaffe in written correspondence to a constituent who’d inquired about voting eligibility. In a letter dated Aug. 9 and carrying LaMalfa’s signature, Richvale’s own son erroneously states that citizens must be “over 21 years of age” to vote. Whoops!

Maybe LaMalfa confused voting with boozing or smoking weed—the latter two being legal activities in California for residents upon that magical age. In any event, he’s taking heat in the Twittersphere. Some believe the misstep was a “deliberate attempt to mislead” and have called for an ethics investigation.

Was LaMalfa trying to suppress votes? Or is it more likely one of his staffers simply made a blunder? It’s hard for me to imagine he personally writes back to his constituents—big donors excepted, of course—so I’d bet on the latter.

Frankly, I’m more interested in the mailer his office evidently sent out recently. According to a couple of CN&R readers, LaMalfa’s flier brags about the congressional tax cuts—a strange talking point in these parts considering the law was designed to enrich corporations and wealthy people. Indeed, the benefit to the average American is modest and temporary. Here in low-wage Butte County, a lot of folks, specifically those earning less than $25,000, will save an estimated 60 bucks in federal taxes this year.

Savvy readers noted that the mailer was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense. Unsurprising. LaMalfa did something similar right around the 2016 primary (see “What a hypocrite,” Editorial, March 17, 2016).

Thing is, congressional members’ so-called “franking privileges” allow them to do so if they follow a couple of rules, such as sending the correspondence out at least 90 days before an election. The content is supposed to be unrelated to campaigning and apolitical in nature, so in my mind touting a tax law that President Trump pushed and only Republicans voted to approve doesn’t exactly meet the spirit of the franking statutes.

That’s right, folks, you paid for what’s essentially the incumbent campaigning. How does that feel?

As for the mailing blackout dates, they began on Aug. 9, according to the Congressional Franking Office. Seems like his camp may have cut it pretty close.

Regarding mailers paid by his campaign coffers—or political action committees supporting him—well, I eagerly await them. If past elections are any indication, Denney should expect attacks on her character in the next couple of months. Recall two years ago the multiple mailers besmirching Republican challenger Joe Montes. Years before that, a LaMalfa henchman—currently the congressman’s chief of staff—launched a vicious phony website targeting the late Sam Aanestad, then a termed-out Republican state senator vying for the district’s congressional seat upon longtime Rep. Wally Herger’s retirement (for a refresher, see “Running scared,” Second & Flume, May 26, 2016).

I’ll be keeping an eye on my mail, but I’d love to hear from readers who receive anything from the congressman. I’m not exactly his target audience.