It seems like almost no one approves of the job Congress is doing, but the same people keep getting elected over and over again. Why is that?
Incumbents in Congress get all sorts of privileges that help them win elections, even when they are unpopular. Most congressional districts lean heavily towards one party, so general elections are often uncompetitive. Incumbents get so much help from the government that they often don’t face challenges from within their own parties. In Virginia, incumbents who are challenged by members of their own parties get to choose to compete in either a primary election or a convention. Primaries are more expensive for taxpayers, but they allow incumbents to more effectively utilize another privilege, called franking. The franking privilege allows incumbents to use tax dollars to mail out campaign literature. According to the Congressional Research Service, members of Congress spend $18.1 million on mass mailings every year.
Madison Liberty is based in Harrisonburg, a relatively conservative district in which most voters say they support cutting spending and limiting government. Our representative, Congressman Goodlatte, is currently engaged in a primary race with Karen Kwiatkowski and is fighting for his eleventh term. Like most Congressional incumbents, his campaign is taking advantage of the franking privilege.
Since March, I have attempted to contact Mr. Goodlatte’s office by phone and email, but so far I haven’t gotten a response. I encourage readers to email Mr. Goodlatte about how he’s using the franking privilege. Regardless of whom we support, I hope most of us can agree that elections should be fair, and that candidates should do their own fundraising, rather than taking from the taxpayers.
Madison Liberty does not endorse any candidate. Writers like myself may personally advocate for campaigns, but as a group we are nonpartisan and choose to focus on educating people about the benefits of free markets, individual liberty, and non-interventionism.