Topeka — Three months before facing the voters, U.S. Rep. Jim Ryun, R-Lawrence, has sent a mass mailout at taxpayer expense that says he is doing a good job in trying to lower gas prices.
The 11-inch by 6-inch glossy card cost taxpayers approximately $38,000 to produce and send to 130,000 households in the 2nd Congressional District, which includes west Lawrence, according to Ryun's office.
The mailing was criticized by Ryun's Democratic challenger, Nancy Boyda of Topeka.
"It's just wrong that he uses taxpayer money for a political campaign," said Boyda, who faces Ryun in the Nov. 7 election. "It's just a political piece," she said of the card.
But Ryun's office defended the mailing, saying Ryun was using his franking privilege, which allows members of Congress to use taxpayer dollars to communicate with constituents.
"All of the mailers that go out, on the Republican and Democrat side, are all approved by the Franking Commission," Ryun's spokeswoman Michelle Schroeder said. The commission is composed of Republican and Democratic House members.
The card also was sent right before the deadline that prohibits the use of franking for mailouts in the 90 days before an election.
Schroeder said the cost of gas and oil was a timely issue that a lot of constituents were concerned about.
"People want to know what is being done and what else can be done," she said.
The front of the card features a photo of Ryun and carries this message:
"Congressman Jim Ryun
Lower Gas Prices & Energy Independence
for America and Your Family"
The back of the card lists a number of energy-related bills and initiatives that Ryun backs.
"Congressman Ryun has supported progress," says the card, which includes information on how to contact Ryun's office. The card says Ryun supports a three-pronged approach of exploration, alternative energy and conservation "that will ultimately lead to affordable, sustainable energy."
Also on the card, Ryun takes a jab at former President Clinton, saying the U.S. would've had more oil had he not vetoed Alaskan oil exploration in 1996.
The mailout includes a "What's on your mind?" postcard that can be sent back to Ryun with comments.
Boyda also criticized the content of the card, saying that Ryun had failed to lead on important energy issues, including conservation and alternative fuels.
On the card, Ryun said the new Energy Policy Act will help the development of alternative fuels and promote conservation.