Tipton Introduces Taxpayer Savings Measure to Prohibit Cash in Federal Surveys

Oct 5, 2012 Issues: Fiscal Responsibility

WASHINGTON, DC—Congressman Scott Tipton (R-CO), today, continued his fight against blatant federal waste by introducing the Survey Savings Accountability Act. This bill would save taxpayer dollars by prohibiting federal agencies from sending cash in mass communications, including surveys where cash is included for the benefit of the responder. Some federal agencies currently use this practice to entice responses to opinion surveys, including the Bureau of Reclamation, which in 2011 sent nearly $30,000 in cash in a survey about removing four dams in California and Oregon.

“My mother always said, ‘don’t put cash in the mail—it could get lost, and you’ll never see it again.’ Washington could learn a thing or two from this common sense,” Tipton said. “First, sending cash in the mail with surveys is a blatant waste and abuse of taxpayer dollars. Second, enticing responders with cash to gather objective public opinion data raises questions about the quality of that data. Washington doesn’t need to pay people to get a sense of public opinion on an issue. When Americans are passionate about something there is abundantly free feedback.”

The Survey Savings Accountability Act follows Tipton’s amendment earlier this year to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill to prohibit the Bureau of Reclamation and other agencies covered under the legislation from funding surveys in which money is included or provided for the benefit of the responder. The amendment passed with a strong bipartisan vote of 355-5.

“Every dollar in savings counts, and we need to root out waste and abuse in Washington wherever possible, especially when it’s as blatant as sending taxpayer dollars in the mail with surveys,” said Tipton.

Background

In 2011, the Bureau of Reclamation sent a survey to solicit local, regional and national input on the societal need to remove four privately owned dams on the Klamath River. The survey was mailed to 11,000 households in California, Oregon and selected households in the rest of the nation. Each of these households received a postcard telling them a survey was coming, and then a large packet with the survey arrived. Each packet included a cover letter, postage-paid return envelope and survey with a $2 bill included to encourage people to respond—totaling $22,000 American taxpayer dollars.

Those who did not respond, but kept the $2 bill anyway, then received a follow-up Federal Express or Priority Mail package. These packages were sent to 1,245 people, out of which 286 responded. Each of these 286 respondents was given $20, which means that $5,720 of additional American taxpayer dollars were spent -– not including the cost of the FedEx or priority mail.

Replies to the survey included:

“No wonder the US is having $$ problems if the government has extra $2 bills to mail out randomly.”

“Wow, what a waste of time. I have neither the time or interest in something I have not a clue about happening clear across the country. Sorry. P.S. Thanks for the 2 bucks.”