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Acting Nassau DA: Taxpayer-Funded Political Mailings Are Out Of Hand

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Lawmakers in Nassau County were calling Wednesday night for tighter regulations over political messages that end up in your mailbox.

As CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported, the lawmakers have been sparring over which mailings – paid for by taxpayers – are fair game.

Gina Donovan of Garden City is not a fan of the political fliers that come each day in the mail.

"It's a waste, and it's a waste for the landfills," Donovan said.

And the fliers cost taxpayers $1.1 million this year – a figure that has Acting Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas calling for new guidelines.

"Frankly, we're just tired of Nassau taxpayers having to foot the bill for these self-promotional, blatantly political advertising that gets sent to people's homes that they're paying for," Singas said.

Singas said officials have the right to communicate legitimate governmental messages to constituents with public funds, but believes most of the mailings simply seek votes -- and should be paid for with campaign funds.

Some lawmakers agree, saying rules are fuzzy and lead to abuse.

"Taxpayers don't like this," said Nassau County Legislator Judy Jacobs (D-Woodbury). "They don't like to be used as pawns in something that crosses a line of government information."

But the majority in the Nassau County Legislature has not brought the proposal to a vote, calling its own mailings essential "to inform our constituents of our initiatives."

Those mailings invite residents to concerts, workshops, and health screenings at a cost of 25 cents per postcard.

But some said the mailings as a whole are a poor use of public funds.

"As soon as they come, they go in the garbage," one resident said.

"We want the information about when to take care of our taxes and things like that, but other things like concert series -- that's a waste," another said.

Yet another resident said the mailings are "necessary to know what's going on."

Donavan said there must be a greener way to get the message out.

"Write more in the newspaper, or send letters to the editor," she said.

The State of New York already bards elected officials from using public funds for political purposes. But Singas said current laws are too weak, and said she thinks abusing government mailing privileges ought to be a crime.

The proposal affecting the mailings would require them to be clearly labelled with who is footing the bill, and require officials to reimburse Nassau County for mailings that are clearly promotional.


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