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AP Exclusive: California taxpayers fund legislative mailings

AP Exclusive: California taxpayers fund legislative mailings

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California Assembly members spent $3.2 million sending mail to their constituents last year, taking advantage of a legislative perk that allows them to use taxpayer money to cover the costs.

Lawmakers can't use state funds for campaign mail. But an Associated Press analysis found members typically spend more in election years and those with the highest tabs are in competitive races.

Experts say the mailings benefit incumbents, even if they're not explicitly used for campaign purposes. Former Democratic Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, for example, spent $62,000 on mail over a two-week period last winter as he was ramping up a successful campaign for Congress against 22 opponents.

Lawmakers defend the practice as an important tool for communicating with voters. But some experts say there should be further restrictions on spending as elections near.