EDINA, Minn. -- The Jim Meffert for Congress campaign has filed a letter of complaint to the House Ethics Committee asking for a full investigation into Congressman Erik Paulsen's taxpayer-funded mailing, which Meffert contends was misleading.
The mailer contains a graph depicting the national debt growing at a gradual pace from 2007 to 2009 during the Bush years, and then rising at an accelerated pace between 2009-2012 in the Obama years.
The slope of the line rises sharply in the three-year Obama segment. That same segment, if plotted accurately on a standard graph, would actually be a more gradual slope than in the previous segment. Meffert, the Democrat running against Paulsen in Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, argues the graphic is very deceptive.
"I don't find it too surprising that a career politician would mislead or lie to voters during an election," Meffert's campaign manager Alex Falconer said in a statement to the media Tuesday.
"But when an elected official sends out taxpayer-funded mail that clearly misrepresents data in order to scare and mislead constituents, it is more than shameful. It is cause for investigation."
The national debt actually rose at a sharper pace from 2007 to 2009, increasing by $4.41 trillion in two years, than it will between 2009 and 2012, when it is projected to grow by $3.31 trillion. If the size of the accumulating debt is plotted correctly the national debt rises at a slower pace in the Obama years, rather than "exploding" as the mailer puts it.
Paulsen, a freshman Republican, has made deficit spending his main rhetorical point in his campaign to defend his seat. He refers to himself as "the math guy" in his inaugural TV ad, which implies any school student knows one reduces debt by spending less.
Paulsen's congressional office responded to the complaint by saying the information -- the actual dollar amounts -- are factual.
"Every piece of Paulsen franked mail -- including the piece on the national debt -- was approved by the Commission on Mailing Standards of the Committee on House Administration," Paulsen's communications director Mark Giga said in a statement to KARE.
Giga did not address Meffert's complaint about the shape and dimensions of the curve on the graph, or whether it could be construed as misleading to constituents.
The Meffert campaign also raised questions about why some Democrats living in the 3rd District did not receive the mailing, and asked whether the mailer was intentionally targeted to those who wouldn't raise an objection to the illustration.
The 3rd District, comprised of suburbs west of the Twin Cities, has often voted Democrat in presidential elections. The seat was held by Jim Ramstad, a self-described moderate Republican, for 18 years prior to Paulsen's election in 2008.
Paulsen, of Eden Prairie, served 14 years in the Minnesota House, including four years as House Majority Leader, prior to running for Congress. Meffert, of Edina, has been an executive at several nonprofit medical associations and has chaired the state's Parent Teacher Association.
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