Rep. Jared Golden using Federal tax dollars to run Facebook ads in Maine, more than 30 ads so far

A photo from one of Congressman Jared Golden’s federal taxpayer funded Facebook ads with the ad disclaimer superimposed on the photo.

WASHINGTON D.C. – Following last week’s New Hampshire Journal exposé on Chris Pappas running Facebook ads using tens of thousands of federal taxpayer dollars to advertise his Congressional activities in a way that is difficult to discern from political campaign advertising, it has come to light that Jared Golden in Maine’s Second Congressional District is following the example set by his Granite State colleague.

While Golden hasn’t spent as much as his fellow Trump district colleague to the south, he is still operating in a grey zone regarding campaign finance legality.

Since late January, Rep. Golden has run more than 30 Facebook ads with taxpayer dollars classified by Facebook as “issue, electoral or political” with the disclaimer “Paid for by Office of Congressman Jared Golden.”

The ads cover a variety of familiar themes Golden has touted on the campaign trail: getting “dark money” out of politics, prescription drugs, some of Maine’s traditional industries and mental health care. Many of the ads don’t point to anything Golden has done on the issue, just asking those who see them to follow or visit his page.

The ads can all be viewed in the Facebook Ads Library, an archive Facebook provides to allow anyone to track political ads and spending on their platform.

FRANKING

Members of Congress have what are known as “franking privileges” which allows them to send mail at no cost to constituents. Franking privileges have been around since the late 18th Century. While controversial, the ability to correspond with constituents via mail in that era did offer a unique value in a world where there was no television, radio, or social media to deliver news to a broad audience at little to no cost.

Over the years, franking has been the subject of numerous scandals, and accusations that the practice allowed an incumbent to use federal tax dollars to campaign for re-election. Some members of Congress are now beginning to extend those privileges to online advertising. In some cases, incumbents are synchronizing the messaging in their taxpayer funded ads as closely as they can to the ads they will run from their political campaigns.

Critics say that franking has long been outdated and unnecessary in the modern world and that the practice amounts to spending federal dollars on a re-election campaign. Some defend the traditional use of franking as a means to reach constituents that may not use social media or to deliver important information in a manner better than can be done on a computer screen or through the news media.

GOLDEN’S ADS

Rep. Jared Golden’s page has spent a total of $2,224 on 31 ads so far, but more than half of that spending has come in the last 7 days according to the Facebook Ads Library. Some of the ads have reached less than 5,000 people while others show impressions of 50,000 or more. Each carries a disclaimer saying it was “Paid for by Office of Congressman Jared Golden” and is classified as being about “Social issues, elections or politics.”

Twelve of the ads direct people to follow Golden at his Facebook page, the remaining ads contain a link to Golden’s website, targeting a specific issue Golden says he is working on. Information provided by Facebook about the ads shows that some of the ads have cost as much as $199, with some costing less than $100.

GOLDEN WANTS TAXPAYER FUNDING OF POLITICAL CAMPAIGNS

Golden’s use of federal tax dollars in such a manner might rub some people the wrong way, but his position is consistent with actions and a vote he took not long after he arrived in Washington D.C. regarding federal dollars being used to directly fund political candidates.

Rep. Golden cosponsored a controversial bill to provide candidates for the U.S. House and U.S. Senate a $6 federal match for every dollar their political campaign raised.

According to a Maine Examiner analysis, that would have meant Golden received about $9 million in federal dollars to help him get re-elected in 2020, if his fundraising matched his 2018 performance.

While Golden and others argue that sending hundreds of millions of federal dollars to their campaigns in free “matching funds” schemes will get “big money” out of politics, Maine’s experience shows the opposite. As Maine’s clean elections system has grown and added more funding for candidates, outside spending has increased as well.

READ ALSO: Jared Golden cosponsors bill to pump millions of tax dollars into his own campaign coffers

Golden was announced the winner of Maine’s Second Congressional District after losing the election on election night to Congressman Bruce Poliquin. Maine’s controversial ranked-choice voting process was used to tabulate election results declaring him the winner after thousands of ballots were “exhausted” and the ballots of the third- and fourth- place candidates were reallocated to other candidates.

Golden’s final winning vote total still did not total a majority of the ballots cast in the election, despite the promises of “majority winners” from ranked-choice voting advocates.

In 2020, Golden will face one of three candidates, Eric Brakey, Dale Crafts or Adrienne Bennett, vying to challenge him in the general election in the district, with President Donald Trump at the top of the Republican ticket. That represents a challenge for Golden, as the freshman Representative recently voted to impeach Trump and will need to find votes amid higher voter turnout in a district Trump carried by more than 10 points in 2016.

To monitor Rep. Jared Golden’s use of federal taxpayer funding on Facebook advertising, use the link below:

Congressman Jared Golden Facebook Ads Library Archive

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