BARTOW — U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam recently sent out a mailer that lists his efforts to lower gas prices and use environmentally friendly, domestic sources of energy.
The mailer doesn't mention that he's up for re-election this November, so he was able to use taxpayer dollars to send it to his more than 600,000 constituents in District 12, which includes parts of Hillsborough County. It's not unusual to do that, even before elections, USF political science professor Susan MacManus said.
Most U.S. representatives send out mailers like Putnam's, especially after a congressional session, but more voters analyze their motives before an election, she said. The economic slump also affects people's thoughts on taxpayer-funded mailings.
"When people get stressed in their own pocketbooks, they expect government to do so too, and they watch government spending more," MacManus said.
Although it doesn't mention his re-election, it features Putnam's name in large type and his photograph. It touts his efforts to help with the energy crisis and high gas prices. In the background, there's a photo of a field with a wind turbine.
"It couldn't hurt," MacManus said.
Attempts to reach Putnam for comment were unsuccessful.
The mailer lists 13 points under headings that declare he's working to "promote renewable energy" and "encourage energy efficiency." It states that he supports researching clean energy sources, using environmentally safe energy to reduce carbon-based emissions, and building nuclear power plants.
These points make it seem like Putnam is the green god of Capitol Hill. Not so, say some environmental groups.
The League of Conservation Voters gave him Putnam five out of 100 points on its 2007 environmental scorecard. The low score came from his votes on 20 issues. He got negative marks for everything except his vote against offshore drilling.
Another group, the Republicans for Environmental Protection, analyzed 15 votes and gave Putnam 13 out of 100 on the 2007 congressional scorecard. The group sided with Putnam on his vote against offshore drilling and his vote for the Energy Independence and Security Act, which sets new energy efficiency standards and requires more fuel efficiency and the use of biofuel.
Other votes by Putnam drew a negative evaluation from the group. Putnam opposed an amendment that requires utilities to produce at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020, and took a stand against an amendment that would have prohibited the Environmental Protection Agency from using money to enforce a change that the agency says could lead to increased air pollution.
The points in Putnam's mailer come directly from the American Energy Act, a set of bills pushed by Republicans at the end of the session. Putnam has expressed his support of the Energy Act, saying in a news release: "This legislation does it all, and to solve America's energy crisis, that's exactly what we need to be doing."
Although Congress has yet to vote on the Energy Act, other recent votes were on the same topics highlighted in Putnam's mailer. Following are a few of Putnam's votes, what environmental groups think of them, and responses from Keith Rupp, Putnam's senior adviser.
Reducing greenhouse gases
House Resolution 2643, Vote No. 555: This amendment would have removed a nonbinding expression of Congress' opinion in the bill that supported mandatory policies for reducing greenhouse gases.
Putnam voted "yes." Environmental groups say "no" would have been the pro-environment vote.
Rupp said: "Putnam supports reducing greenhouse gases but believes that calling for mandatory policies without knowing the economic impact ... is irresponsible and ignores the many voluntary policies and incentives that could make a tremendous impact on reducing greenhouse gases."
Using renewable energy sources
HR3211, Vote No. 827: The Udall Amendment would require 15 percent of retail electricity sales to be generated from specific renewable resources.
Putnam voted "no." Environmental groups say "yes" is the pro-environment vote.
Rupp said: "In Southeastern sates, such as Florida, the renewable resources required simply don't exist, which would force utilities in these sates to purchase credits from other states."
Allowing offshore drilling
HR2643, Vote. No. 552: This would have allowed drilling off Florida's coast outside 25 miles.
Putnam voted "no." Environmental groups say "no" is the pro-environment vote.
Rupp said: "He would not support an amendment that simply opens Florida's coast beyond 25 miles without any state control or participation."
Jessica Vander Velde can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 661-2443.