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Campus Notebook: Members Pay for Autopen Convenience

It’s a far cry from John Hancock.

Some House Members dished out big bucks last year to make signing stacks of correspondence a little easier.

Instead of individually scrawling their names in messy black ink, House Members bought autopen machines to do the dirty work. While the machines save time, the convenience doesn’t come cheap.

House Members spent at least $26,000 in fiscal 2010 on purchases, rentals, maintenance and warranties on these robotic signature machines, according to data from the Sunlight Foundation.

Five Members bought a signature machine in 2010, paying as much as $3,000 each. 

Rep. Gregg Harper paid $2,673.67 in June for his Damilac Corp. autopen, plus $436 for the warranty and $297 in maintenance fees later in the year.

Harper likened the machine to social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, because it helps Members stay in touch with constituents.

“Member offices are always seeking innovative ways to more efficiently communicate with their constituents,” the Mississippi Republican said in a statement.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) opted to rent, paying $99 monthly throughout 2010, while former Rep. Walt Minnick (D-Idaho), who was ousted in November, paid $125 monthly for the machine.

But the price tag on those pieces of equipment is the low end.

According to an employee answering phones Monday at Automated Signature Technology, the Sterling, Va.-based competitor to Damilac, a standard SigTech 800, which requires an operator to place documents individually on the machine, could run an office about $3,000.

A Ghostwriter MAX, on the other hand, could fetch upward of $8,000 because it automatically feeds large stacks of documents and signs them.

No Members sprung for the fancy model in 2010, but in fiscal 2009 Republican Reps. Adrian Smith (Neb.) and Thaddeus McCotter (Mich.) paid about $8,000 each for a high-end autopen from Automated Signature Technology.

With 4 million constituents, Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi decided to purchase two of the machines in May 2009 at $7,775 each.

“These machines automatically feed and sign time-sensitive documents and other items, especially when the Congressman is not at the office. These are also ideal for large mailings,” the Democrat’s spokeswoman, Dennise Perez, said. 

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