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  • BharatPremi
    03-26 09:08 AM
    These banks, Mortgage companies and realtors - The whole nexus of sharks have made refinance almost impossible since last week.. Any body else noticed that? What happened is as soon as FED cut down the rate this nexus dramatically reduces the price 10 - 15%. If you go to zillow, you would find at least 10% reduction published for almost every home with comparison to 5 days before... Something is cooking up.. I do not know what it may be...At least for VA, MD, DC based homes I see this pattern. It looks like, lenders do not want to invite refinances.. and that is scary. Even most sites shows the list of properties with less value under " property sold last in 6 months" and make the properties disappeared which wer sold with reasonable price. I noticed this pattern for many bank alerts as well. So now the real picture you can get from is the county database only to fight these sharks. Are they trying to divert all to government loans (FHA?)... watch out.





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  • thakurrajiv
    03-26 10:13 AM
    These banks, Mortgage companies and realtors - The whole nexus of sharks have made refinance almost impossible since last week.. Any body else noticed that? What happened is as soon as FED cut down the rate this nexus dramatically reduces the price 10 - 15%. If you go to zillow, you would find at least 10% reduction published for almost every home with comparison to 5 days before... Something is cooking up.. I do not know what it may be...At least for VA, MD, DC based homes I see this pattern. It looks like, lenders do not want to invite refinances.. and that is scary. Even most sites shows the list of properties with less value under " property sold last in 6 months" and make the properties disappeared which wer sold with reasonable price. I noticed this pattern for many bank alerts as well. So now the real picture you can get from is the county database only to fight these sharks. Are they trying to divert all to government loans (FHA?)... watch out.
    I posted a few messages in another thread on macroeconomic issues. As you found out, a lot of people don't understand the severity of credit crunch. If you have lot of cash, yes you have a big advantage, go and invest. Even if you get it wrong for next 5 years, you will be ok.
    But for people who want to do this on borrowed money, credit crunch will hit you. The credit crunch will get worse. Whole mortgage industry will change, things will tighten. This just means something has to give up, which is house price.
    If you are already not in a house, wait as you might be able to buy at much lower prices. Jump into RE as investment now only if you have enough cash to sustain upto 30% drop in home prices !!





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  • 485Mbe4001
    09-29 07:55 PM
    its ok, you misunderstood my point. I dont want to divert OP of this thread.

    Anyways the fact of the matter is that we are in a limbo, all indications point to Obama becoming the next president of US. if CIR 2008 was any indication , we as EB applicants are royally screwed if Sen Durbin dictates his immigration policy. What is the use of talking about wars and innocent people when chances are that the advocate of his immigration policy is opposed to my main issue of EB reform. high low Taxes, 401k's, houses, Medicare etc will matter if you get to stay here in the first place. A average 6-9 years of paying taxes, supporting medicare and Social Security and we now need to think about moving to different countries where skilled immigrants are welcome....think about it. Just look at the CIR 2008 discussion to understand what i am talking about. Read the senators transcripts.



    Ramayan was an epic written long time ago. It is a story(like stories in bibble). Creationism evolved just to oppose evolution theory and cause confusion to the evolution theory. They say it is based on science, when it is not. BTW evolution is also a fact, it is not just theory.

    Spending on needless wars are not helping economy. With this economy there is little chance for GC. If everybody wants tax cut, who will pay the debt. Keep borrowing? Some one has to pay the interest at the least..
    Clinton balanced the budget, while taxing the rich. McCain is for the 'trickle down economy' which we now see what it really is(DOW down 800 points). Obama is for tax cut for the average guys and not for the 'trickle down economy' scam.





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  • skd
    12-31 12:32 PM
    Only for Hindi speaking people...This Quote from Ramdhari Dinkar's Poem
    ...
    Kshama shobhti us bhujang ko
    Jiske paas garal hai
    Uska kya jo dantheen
    Vishrahit vineet saral hai
    ....

    Which means.....Pardon(forgiveness) looks nice if you are Strong and forgiving a weak...It will funny if a weak person says that he is forgiving a strong opponent.

    For reading whole poem goto this link (top is in English script /and Translation in English and scroll down to read it in Hindi)
    http://poems2remember.blogspot.com/2007/01/shakti-aur-kshama-strength-and-mercy.html



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  • sledge_hammer
    12-17 04:14 PM
    I too will post something funny :)

    <object width="340" height="285"><param name="movie" value="http://www.youtube.com/v/3VJrXo5zGNk&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&border=1"></param><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true"></param><param name="allowscriptaccess" value="always"></param><embed src="http://www.youtube.com/v/3VJrXo5zGNk&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0&border=1" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" allowscriptaccess="always" allowfullscreen="true" width="340" height="285"></embed></object>





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  • americandesi
    04-15 06:37 PM
    3. Will the stress level increase after buying the house (again worried for making payments, losing jobs). Is it worth it.



    It's definetly not worth it. Here's an artice on one such riches to rags story.

    http://www.cnn.com/2008/LIVING/personal/03/27/foodbank.family/

    As per the article "She has had to take extreme measures to pay for her interest-only mortgage of $2,500 a month"



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  • go2roomshare
    04-07 07:04 PM
    I am not sure why we are worrying about this bill. This makes restrictions on Consulting companies, so what Clients won't be able to find people, so they do hire people as full time instead of temporary consulting position. That is good for us we can find more full time positions from client it self. I even heard that this bill makes sure H1B are paid by market rates instead of DOL wages which are often very less than market value. Good thing for us the staring salaries would be at higher rate than present rates. This bill is bad for consulting companies but good for us. Am i missing any thing here??





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  • unitednations
    07-08 04:44 PM
    Particularly worried about what you just mentioned about USCIS using other means to deny application - this seems to go against the principle of 245(K) which was to allow folks to get GC irrespective of a violation in the past. If the intent is to not let folks use 245(K), why even publish such a law? MOre importantly, for folks who have been staying and working in a country for many years (read > 5 yrs), it is possible that they might have some glitches and 245(K) was there to cover that (I am not saying every one has gone through this but a lot of people in 2000/01/02 went through this).

    What are the grounds for I-485 denial if my I-140 is approved?

    The followings are the grounds for an I-485 denial.
    a. Some crimes committed by the applicant.
    b. The applicant is out of status or illegally worked for over 180 days.
    c. If the I-140 is employer-sponsored, the applicant changes job before I-485 has been pending for 180 days.
    d. The applicant drastically changes occupation or job field.
    e. The applicant travels abroad without Advance Parole (H/L visa or status is excepted).
    f. The applicant�s failure to RFE or fingerprint.


    There are a lot of protections in immigration law for us beneficiaries.

    When we quote laws; we generally are looking for specific items that may benefit us.

    However; uscis uses or misuses other parts of immigration law to override these friendly type aspects.

    Every piece of paper a person signs and sends to uscis is done under "penalty of perjury". Even though there is protection such as 245k; uscis can use the "perjury" and document fraud to override all of these friendly type policies. If they think a person is dirty or trying to get away with something then they will dig even harder until they find something. I remember as an auditor; a company wanted to fire their CFO but couldn't find a performance reason. Easiest way was to go to the persons expense report because everyone fudges it and this is essentially how he got fired. USCIS knows that if they dig hard into someones file they will find something.


    Many people don't really understand the investigative powers uscis has or the extent they will go through. if person fakes paystubs to do an h-1b transfer; well uscis issues rfe's asking for a listing of all h-1b employees and payments made to each employee for last two years. I have seen them inter-relate this information for people who have faked these types of things.

    Recently; I saw uscis california service center request state unemployment compensation reports for all employees for wages paid for the last two years. the service center actually picked four people who were paid substantially less and pulled their h-1b files and pointed this out in their denial that they coudn't trust the companies assertions on the LCA and they had to deny the petition for the current beneficiary.

    All these talks of lawsuits, etc; will just make them dig in their heels more and find more things and make it more and more difficult.



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  • pmpforgc
    04-14 10:35 AM
    Atleast you are being honest and telling that the price now is somewhere around 350K. also the main point is that you bought it in 2004 so you are somewhat lucky. the situation now is such that prices are still very high in the correct location. I will give my example ..if I buy a house now ... for the good deals ..I have to buy one which is 14 miles away from work and another 22 miles away from city / airport (atlanta). and ofcourse if I buy at so far away it will not appreciate for another 10 years (many places have single roads ..and atlanta traffic is famous). there is still a bubble at better locations ..as sellers / builders are not lowering enough ..lots of for sale signs though.
    now by renting ..I am closer to work / family ..so atleast 250 $ saved in gas plus vehicle maintenance ..add another 300 in maint + hoa for new house plu 300 - 400 in prop tax etc. with this money itself --I get good deals on renting a townhome with good apartment companies (hence no HOA).
    so renting is not throwing money away ..you get a place to stay (with no maintenance) ..maybe smaller in size ..so you need to ask another question ,...do I need extra space (And maintenance ..) ..before you decide to buy especially now.


    Hi

    I am moving to Atlanta (Meritta) soon. I got new job there.

    I need some advise regarding housing situation in regards to buying home. Currently I dont own home. I went to buy home last spring at my current location ( south carolina) but luckily I didnt buy it as some one advised me not to proceed unless I plan to stay for atleast five years. So that was good for me.

    Any way what are the good developing suburbun areas where we have good schools and property prices are reasonable in atlanta area?

    What is the trend of house price in atlanta area?

    Also regarding renting apratments, my son is in high school and I will be working in the Meritta area. I was looking for highshools and I found that Walton highschool, Pope Highschool and Roswell Highschools may be good choices nearby.

    Let me know your experiences in regards to any of those schools and nearby renatl apartments at low cost. I currently rent twobed room apartment and similar mightbe sufficient for me.

    Also please give links where I can see more info regarding atlanta housing, shcools transport etc.

    thanks





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  • amsgc
    08-06 11:21 PM
    .



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  • nojoke
    06-26 04:35 PM
    I don't know what else to tell you except what I've already stated. Frankly I am surprised that this debate has gone beyond 1 page. I am tired of beating a dead horse.

    If you are renting for 1500/month thats 18,000 a year, or 540,000 in 30 years that you lose with no chance of claiming as a deduction or ever using for anything. Rather than losing that money, why not use it to own the property you are living in?

    As a homeowner, you can use that 540,000 to own the home. The interest and property taxes you pay are tax deductible, and the principal means that at the end of the 30 years, the home is yours (20 if your loan is 20 years). Even when you are paying the mortgage, you are saving. You are getting bigger tax returns and you are owning the home that you live in. No amount of rent will guarantee either.

    Through a combination of tax deductions, home equity, and property value, I am willing to bet you that I can save the same amount you do by renting, but still be ahead by owning the property I live in in 30 years. Just take a look at any home owner's history and tell me someone who hasn't doubled the value of their home (home only, not including their savings) in the past 30 years or more.

    Everyone here that is dead-set on renting, by all means continue to throw your money away. And it REALLY is throwing your money away. How you wish to justify doing so is fine by me as long as you can sleep at night and explain to your family, friends and kids why you chose to rent for 30 or so years.

    All your calculations are meaningless if the house price keeps going down 20% like the past few years. We will reach a point where the house price crash stops and starts to stabilize. That point is couple of years away. Until then, we can ignore the rent vs mortgage calculations.





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  • Refugee_New
    01-06 12:38 PM
    It is very sad but please post it on the relevant site.

    I think we discuss these kind of news in IV. Don't you know that? In the same forum i have heard people saying Isreal is a peace loving nation and they never commit crime.

    Look at what is happening now. Can we justify killing innocent kids? Who would kill kids? How evil one should be in order to kill school kids?

    How evil this world is, watching these attrocities silently. While pakistani terrorists committed attrocities in India, whole world blamed the entire Muslim communities.

    Now where are those peace loving people have gone while Muslims are brutally murdered and innocent kids are brutally killed by missles?



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  • Refugee_New
    01-06 05:28 PM
    What do you mean by "Others"? Al-Jazeera? Al-Aqsa? Al-Manar?? FYI, Here are couple of Articles from the charter of Hamas. And you think Hamas is peace loving organization because........ ?

    Article 7 of the Hamas Covenant states the following: "The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him. Only the Gharkad tree, (the Cedar tree) would not do that because it is one of the trees of the Jews." (related by al-Bukhari and Muslem).

    Article 22 claims that the French revolution, the Russian revolution, colonialism and both world wars were created by the Zionists. It also claims the Freemasons and Rotary clubs are Zionist fronts. "You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it.

    I am not supporting Hamas or their core belief. I am not going that far. What i'm saying is, how can one country kill school kids and go scot-free???

    When we cried for terror victims, why don't we do the same for palestinians who are victims of state sponsored terrorism???

    If we want to discuss about Ideology of other faiths and different groups, we can open one more thread. You wouldn't want to open another thread. Because you know how nasty those ideologies are? Every religion/group have their own ideology and they are nothing but brutal.





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  • nojoke
    04-15 10:44 PM
    Ok Dude, I will try just one last time, nobody is advocating buying a house when the market is bad. The question someone asked was is it ok to buy a house when I485 is pending, and the answer given was if he has found a very good deal, in a very good location and considering his situation if it is affordable then I485 should not be a hindrance. People who were still on H1 have bought a house when the market was good and they are doing well now. Some people who got GC might have bought a house just before the market came crashing down and they were plain unlucky. I myself bought a small affordable home when I had just my labor stage cleared. If when I bought this house the market was like this, I would not have bought but would have waited. Period.

    And for those who become nostalgic. I myself was bought up in a small house, it had only two rooms, I repeat, the whole house had just two rooms, nothing else. We had to share a toilet with 3 other houses of similar size, was I happy then?, Of course I was happy, I used to play cricket and other sports on the street with other kids with vehicles passing by once in a while. Is the situation same here?. No, but do kids here have other ways of having fun, oh yes. It doesn’t matter if the kid is living in an apartment or a house, all that matters is if he is having fun. Somebody came up with a strange logic that our love for our kids will diminish if we buy a house. If you have bought a decent, affordable house your love will not diminish, it will only manifold.

    I am not against renting, nor against people living in an apartment, I myself have lived in apartments before. I am against people who only want to save for god knows what, for people who are afraid to take small risks (for ex: buying a small home and not a mansion) when the market becomes good, they will ask you to prepare for the worst case scenario. They will say don’t buy a house because the sky will fall or don’t buy because the world will come to an end. Nothing is permanent here, not the job, not the location. You just have to take calculated risks. You just cannot console yourself saying you are from middle class and cannot do a thing, lift yourself up. If you want to buy a house but you are not doing it now because the market is bad, then I am not against you, so don’t jump on me.

    Dude - Since you did not point out the danger of buying a house in this economy(you and some others said go ahead and buy), I am pointing it. I will continue to point to the risk.

    And you are back to the point "housing is better than renting". Everyone has their own reasons to rent out or buy. I am not making a blanket statement that renting is good or buying a house is good. Where as you keep making the argument that renting is bad and buying house is good. We don't know the situation what one is in. Their jobs may be shaky. You just cannot say they made a mistake by renting. And some don't think not owning a house is a big deal. "Lift yourself up:(? (do you attend NAR seminars?)" - that is your view. Google and you will see that there are many who think buying house means wasting time maintaining.



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  • Macaca
    02-20 10:20 AM
    Some paras from A Few Degrees of Separation From Hillary Clinton's Top Adviser (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/19/AR2007021900972.html), By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum (http://projects.washingtonpost.com/staff/email/jeffrey+h.+birnbaum/), Please send e-mail tokstreet@washpost.com

    Mark J. Penn is a man who wears many hats: high-paid political and corporate pollster, chief executive of an international communications and lobbying company, and chief strategist to New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's bid for the Democratic presidential nomination.

    Enough connections for you?

    Well, there are more. Penn's firm, Burson-Marsteller Worldwide -- with 2,000 employees and $300 million a year in revenue -- owns BKSH &amp; Associates, the major lobbying firm chaired by Charles R. Black Jr. That's right, Black, counselor to Republican presidents, reports to Clinton's top strategist.

    The connections get even more entangled. Burson-Marsteller is a subsidiary of WPP Group, a London-based advertising and PR giant that owns many of the biggest names on K Street. These include Quinn Gillespie &amp; Associates, Wexler &amp; Walker Public Policy Associates, Timmons &amp; Co., Ogilvy Government Relations Worldwide (formerly the Federalist Group), Public Strategies Inc., Dewey Square Group and Hill &amp; Knowlton.

    To be more precise, Penn's parent company employs as lobbyists and advisers an ex-chairman of the Republican National Committee (Edward W. Gillespie), a former House GOP leader (Robert S. Walker), a top GOP fundraiser (Wayne L. Berman), and the former media adviser to President Bush (Mark McKinnon).

    WPP's Democrats are just as well known. They include an ex-aide to President Jimmy Carter (Anne Wexler), an ex-aide to President Bill Clinton (Jack Quinn), an ex-Cabinet officer for Clinton and Bush (Norman Y. Mineta), and a former top presidential campaign adviser for Al Gore and John Kerry (Michael J. Whouley).

    The range of interests represented by these people is a staggering list of corporate America's who's who, with Penn himself a longtime adviser to Microsoft.

    "This is a classic example of how big money has inextricably intertwined the campaign advising and lobbying worlds of modern-day Washington with potential conflicts of interest all over the place," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a watchdog group.





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  • nogc_noproblem
    08-26 01:05 AM
    Why cats are better then men ...

    � A cat matures as it grows older.
    � Back hair on cats is cute.
    � When a cat sleeps all day it's natural, not annoying.
    � Unlike a man, a cat can fend for itself.
    � A cat is loyal.
    � Cats actually think with their heads.
    � "Meow" is never a lie.
    � They'll both stand outside your door and whine, but the cat will stop when it gets in. :)
    � It's more amusing to watch a cat try and deal with a piece of tape stuck on its paw than to watch a man do anything.
    � To buy a fancy dinner for a cat only costs 35 cents.
    � A cat's friend is less likely to be annoying.
    � Cats can't show love without meaning it.
    � Cats are always cute.



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  • reddog
    01-06 12:49 PM
    Now the killing has gone mad. Apart from killing the innocent civilians, crazy war mongers started bombing schools and killing innocent school kids. Today two schools were bombed and more than 40 children have been massacred.

    Its sad to see school children being brutally killed by missles and tanks. I don't understand how people could blow up innocent kids, women and men under the name of self-defence?

    This world has gone crazy and there's no one questioning about this in-human atrocities committed against fellow human being.

    Lets us pray for those who are going thru this hardship, and for an immediate end to this war crime.

    How many more innocent civilians including children they are planning to kill?. All these so called peace loving nations blocking the UN from making a cease-fire resolution. Looks like so called freedom lovers want more innocent lives.

    When Mumbai was attacked by terrorists, whole world was united and supported the victim(India). Now the same world is against the victim and encouraging more killing by not stopping the attrocities.

    And look at what India is going thru. Each and every year, bomb blasts in multiple cities.

    There are hundreds of polls taken in Indian cities and a majority of the people living in cities say that they are terrified. They are constantly living under the fear of the next terrorist attack.

    Indians support a military action against Pakistan as they know that the state of Pakistan is involved in these terrorist activities.
    And even if the state not knowing about these people does not relieve them from accountability.
    So how different would it be if India initiates a military strike on Pakistan, will they guarantee that not a single innocent live will be taken?

    Israelis feel much safer in their country, even after being surrounded by enemies from all side.

    I am not justifying anything, I am just saying that Israel does not love to go and kill innocent people, they are not the Stalin or the Nazi clansmen.

    Or are you saying that they love killing people?





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  • TomPlate
    01-06 04:55 PM
    Religion is to be in peace. But people developed different thoughts other then peace using religion. Every religion beat each other, that is really sad.

    I am sad to see people die because of war and terrorism. Let us pray for every one and ask God Guidance to stop the terrorism.





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  • jonty_11
    09-26 12:29 PM
    all the speculation aside, it would be good know waht IV core thinks abt this...or whats the Outlook of our Lobbying firm...for McCain or Obama





    hiralal
    06-08 07:24 AM
    similar arguments and predictions by different analysts
    ------------------------------
    And here's Whitney and Glenn's take on the future of house prices:

    We think housing prices will reach fair value/trend line, down 40% from the peak based on the
    S&P/Case-Shiller national (not 20-city) index, which implies a 5-10% further decline from where
    prices where as of the end of Q1 2009. It’s almost certain that prices will reach these levels.

    • The key question is whether housing prices will go crashing through the trend line and fall well below fair value. Unfortunately, this is very likely.

    In the long-term, housing prices will likely settle around fair value, but in the short-term prices will be driven both by psychology as well as supply and demand. The trends in both are very unfavorable.

    – Regarding the former, national home prices have declined for 33 consecutive months since their peak in July 2006 through April 2009 and there’s no end in sight, so this makes buyers reluctant – even when the price appears cheap – and sellers desperate.

    – Regarding the latter, there is a huge mismatch between supply and demand, due largely to the tsunami of foreclosures. In March 2009, distressed sales accounted for just over 50% of all existing home sales nationwide – and more than 57% in California. In addition, the “shadow” inventory of foreclosed homes already likely exceeds one year and there will be millions more foreclosures over the next few years, creating a large overhang of excess supply that will likely cause prices to overshoot on the downside, as they are already doing in California.

    • Therefore, we expect housing prices to decline 45-50% from the peak, bottoming in mid-2010

    • We are also quite certain that wherever prices bottom, there will be no quick rebound

    • There’s too much inventory to work off quickly, especially in light of the millions of foreclosures
    over the next few years

    • While foreclosure sales are booming in many areas, regular sales by homeowners have plunged,
    in part because people usually can’t sell when they’re underwater on their mortgage and in part
    due to human psychology: people naturally anchor on the price they paid or what something was
    worth in the past and are reluctant to sell below this level. We suspect that there are millions of
    homeowners like this who will emerge as sellers at the first sign of a rebound in home prices

    • Finally, we don’t think the economy is likely to provide a tailwind, as we expect it to contract the
    rest of 2009, stagnate in 2010, and only then grow tepidly for some time thereafter.





    Macaca
    12-28 08:03 AM
    House Members Spent $20.3M on Mailings (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/27/AR2007122700903.html?hpid=sec-politics) By DENNIS CONRAD | Associated Press, Dec 28, 2007

    WASHINGTON -- U.S. House members spent $20.3 million in tax money last year to send constituents what's often the government equivalent of junk mail _ meeting announcements, tips on car care and job interviews, surveys on public policy and just plain bragging.

    They sent nearly 116 million pieces of mail in all, many of them glossy productions filled with flattering photos and lists of the latest roads and bridges the lawmaker has brought home to the district, an Associated Press review of public records shows.

    Some offered advice on topics one would more commonly expect to see in a consumer-advice column.

    "Keep your car properly maintained" to improve mileage, suggested Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., in a newsletter on how to deal with rising energy prices.

    Rep. David Dreier, R-Calif., offered tips on home improvements.

    And Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., who lost her primary race last year, sent out a taxpayer-funded newsletter a few months before the election that included this simple observation:

    "Convicted felons can vote," she said, if "your" prison sentence has been served, parole or probation completed and fines paid. While campaigning, McKinney, who is black, noted that blacks make up a disproportionately large share of the prison population, which she said dilutes their voting strength.

    A dozen House members spent more than $133,000 each to send 9.8 million pieces of mass mailings. Total cost? $1.8 million.

    Sometimes the lawmakers' taxpayer funded mailings topped what they paid for direct mail through their campaign funds.

    Of the 64 House members with at least $100,000 in taxpayer-funded mailing expenses _ and overwhelmingly for mass mailings _ 42 were Republicans and 22 were Democrats, the AP review found.

    In sharp contrast, 59 lawmakers in the 435-member House _ 35 Republicans and 24 Democrats _ spent nothing on mass mailings. They tended to be the more experienced House members, often with 14 or more years of service.

    Mass mailings cannot be blatantly political, but they still can have political benefits, said Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers' Union, which has condemned mass mailings.

    "A taxpayer-financed mailing doesn't have to say 're-elect me' to have an impact on voters," Sepp said. "A glossy newsletter splashed with the incumbent's achievements in Congress can build useful credentials a lawmaker can take with him to the ballot box. The franking privilege is one of the main cogs in Congress' PR machine."

    Franking, practiced since the early days of the republic, lets members of Congress send mail with just a signature where the postage would normally be affixed. Although the mailings are regulated by a congressional commission to guard against overt political appeals and cannot go out within 90 days of an election, they still sometimes take a dig at the opposition.

    In a June 2006 newsletter, Rep. Pete Stark, D-Calif., noted that under the Republican majority, Congress had passed tax cuts that "benefit the wealthiest Americans at the expense of working families."

    Stark has been a regular among the biggest users of the congressional franking privilege. For 2006, his mass mailings alone cost $172,357, an amount large enough to rank him among the top congressional mailers. House documents reported his overall mailing costs to be about $37,000 less. The AP received no explanation for the apparent discrepancy from spokesmen for Stark, the House Administration Committee and House administration staff.

    Some lawmakers defend the newsletters as a vital way of communicating with constituents.

    "One of the biggest complaints my constituents had (with) my predecessor was that they never knew what was going on in Washington," said Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Fla. "They never had the opportunity to do surveys, etc. I promised I would communicate with them regularly."

    Brown-Waite is one of the biggest users of bulk mail, with 657,951 pieces at a cost of $129,428 last year. That surpassed the approximately $110,000 her campaign spent on direct mailings and related costs.

    One taxpayer-funded mailing featured a picture of her and the headline: "Medicare Prescription Drug Update: The Time to Act is Now." Another, entitled "Constituent Service Guide for the 5th District," included a survey and information about how to obtain U.S. flags, assistance from federal agencies and an appointment to a military academy.

    The House Democratic Caucus encourages members to use the mailings to communicate with constituents, spokeswoman Sarah Feinberg said. She said it was a good way for congressmen to focus on an issue or, if survey questions are used, get a handle on what constituents are thinking.

    That argument doesn't persuade Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., who said he has never used the mailings in 13 years in Congress. "It's a waste of taxpayers' money," he said. "I don't believe in this self-promotion."

    LaHood argues that franking should be used only to answer constituent mail. He has repeatedly introduced bills to ban mass mailings and just as often the legislation dies in committee.

    For the House and Senate combined, the cost of taxpayer-paid mailings, including mass mailings, letters to individuals and groups of up to 500 people, was $34.3 million for fiscal year 2006, according to a recent Congressional Research Service report. In 1988, before more restrictions were imposed on the use of mailings, the figure was more than three times larger, $113.3 million.

    The biggest senders in the AP analysis included freshmen in tight re-election fights and veterans who coasted to victory.

    Rep. Henry Brown, R-S.C., had the most pieces of mass mailings: 1,257,972. His mass mailings' cost of $171,286 was among the highest in the House, as was the overall cost of his franked mail, at $177,706.

    Murphy, who advised constituents to maintain cars, was one of the House leaders in sending out bulk mail, with 1,003,836 pieces. The price tag: $165,650.

    Among legislative leaders, the biggest spender was Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., who last fall became chairman of the House GOP Conference. He spent $133,053 to mail 844,336 pieces.

    Other leaders in the last Congress and the current one were not big users.

    The cost of postage is not the only expense for taxpayers. Printing and reproduction can add tens of thousands of dollars to a mailing's cost. The printing cost for one mailing from McCotter was $30,259.

    There is a practical limit on how much can be spent on mailings.

    Funding comes from a congressman's office budget, which ranges from $1.2 million to $1.4 million for payroll and other expenses. The more spent on mass mailings, the less money is available for such needs as staff, salaries and district offices.

    Senators can also send franked mail, but the amount for each senator is specific and generally based on the number of addresses in a senator's state. At no point may it exceed $50,000 a year for mass mailings. For fiscal year 2004, overall mail allocations ranged from $31,746 to $298,850.

    Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., who mailed 906,788 pieces last year and won re-election with 60 percent of the vote, sees the mailings as helping him do his job.

    "Ours is a representative government, requiring an active dialogue between elected officials and those they serve," Stearns said in a statement.

    Mike Stokke, a political aide to recently resigned Rep. Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., when he was House speaker, said he would advise congressmen to send out mailings when they've fulfilled an important promise, such as getting money for a bridge in the district.



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