News 4 Investigates: Thousands in taxpayer money spent on lawmak - KMOV.com

News 4 Investigates: Thousands in taxpayer money spent on lawmaker mailers

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Every year, lawmakers spend hundreds of thousands sending you mail. Credit: KMOV Every year, lawmakers spend hundreds of thousands sending you mail. Credit: KMOV

ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- It’s got their face and name on it, but it's paid for with your money.

Every year, lawmakers spend hundreds of thousand dollars sending you mail. We’re specifically talking about what's called a District Directory. The directory typically has about 20 pages with the lawmakers' images on the front and phone numbers for public services inside.

Just how helpful the directory is remains debatable, according to a St Louis City resident who spoke to News 4.

“I think it's another piece of paper because I think I can look up a lot of information online,” said one person.

“I just got off the phone with my grandma, she doesn't use the internet, so she would need something like this,” said another.

A previous directory sent to residents in the Tower Grove area caught News 4 Lauren Trager's eye. It had at least eight major errors in it. For example, it read "City Counselor: Winston Calvert," who hasn't held the post in nearly three years. Former St. Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson, hasn't been the police chief since last April, was listed inside along with former St. Louis City Sheriff Jim Murphy

At the top of the document, the writer got the mayor right at least, sort of. Instead of Lyda Krewson, though, it said Lynda.

“If you don't know the mayor's name, come on now,” said Curtis Kalin.

Kalin with Citizens Against Government Waste said the directories are a relic of a by-gone era but he was concerned about the amount of mistakes.

“It’s an outrageous degree of sloppiness on the taxpayer dime,” said Kalin.

News 4 wanted to know how much of the public's money was spent for publications like these. Turns out, it's a lot. Over the past three years, members of the Missouri House and Senate spent more than $2 million of your dollars on mail.

Kalin said mailing directories to everyone in the first place is a practice from a by-gone era.

“It’s time to get rid of it, if there is some type of personal interest, and taxpayer money is being used for it,” he said. 

“I really am sorry I screwed up this directory,” said Freshman State Representative Peter Merideth.

He takes responsibility for the mistakes of interns and others who don't know the area well. He apologized and put a correct version online.

“If we do it again, I am going to have to spend a lot more time on it,” Merideth said.

Elected last year, Merideth already does a lot online, but he said the pamphlets have a purpose.

“The problem is that electronic communications don't reach everyone. The only way to reach everyone is knocking on doors and sending mail.”

He said each lawmaker has a relatively small amount of money to talk to constituents about important issues at the capitol. Savings, he said, might be better found elsewhere.

But, Merideth heard from residents loud and clear: Like all things in government, double check the fine print. 

Kalin suggests maybe a process to allow people to decide if they want the mailers or not, but as Representative Merideth notes, even that would take an initial mailer to determine.

For now, with lots going on in Jefferson City, we don't necessarily expect any changes to the mailing system anytime soon.

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