The Arizona Republican Party has asked U.S. House Speaker John Boehner to look into a mailer that U.S. Rep. Ron Barber sent to constituents.
Republicans allege Barber incorrectly spent public money on a campaign item, and Barber's office said it received formal approval from a bipartisan commission before printing and mailing the material.
A spokesman for Barber, D-Ariz., said the flyer was approved by the congressional commission that guards against members of Congress misusing public money for campaign materials.
Barber's office sent to people who live in his district a flyer with messages about his stance on proposed changes to Medicare, Social Security and the Affordable Care Act.
The messages in the mailer are indicative of campaign material, said Robert Graham, chairman of the Arizona Republican Party. Members of Congress must use congressional office funds on congressional business and are prohibited from using them on campaign expenses.
Graham is taking the issue to Boehner, R-Ohio, because Graham said Barber is going beyond a status update. He wants Boehner to look into whether Barber's mailer violates the ethics standards for congressional office spending.
“He’s talking a lot about the future, which is inconsistent with a report of any kind of progress that somebody’s making," Graham said.
The issue, according to Graham, is that Barber uses "talking points" from the Democratic Party platform.
“If it was a campaign piece, or somebody that’s marketing for their future office, I would expect to hear the same kind of rhetoric and the same type of language that’s in this piece,” Graham said.
Barber's office responded to the allegation by providing proof it was approved by a bipartisan commission designated to deal with such matters.
All members of Congress send similar mailings, Barber spokesman Mark Kimble said.
“This is one of the many ways that the congressman stays in touch with the people of Southern Arizona," Kimble said. “All members of Congress send mailers to their constituents to keep in touch throughout the year."
This mailer went through the required formal approval process before the office mailed it to district residents, Kimble said. The Franking Commission is the congressional committee that makes sure taxpayer dollars are not spent on political campaigns.
“This mailer and all mailers sent by members of Congress are approved by the bipartisan Franking Commission in advance," he said.
This is the first time Graham has asked for this kind of inquiry since he became chairman of the state Republican Party in January, he said. The race in Congressional District 2 in Southern Arizona is expected to be one of the most competitive in the country, according to political forecasts based on the close margin of Barber's 2012 victory over Republican Martha McSally.