Tipton says 1,245 people failed to respond, but kept the money anyway. After another survey was sent to these non-respondents, 286 people mailed the survey back and were given $20, which put the total cost of the survey at about $30,000.

Tipton said the government has no business spending money this way at a time of fiscal crisis.

"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," he 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."

Tipton successfully passed a similar amendment to the Energy and Water Appropriations bill, but that bill and other spending measures were preempted by a six-month spending bill that Congress approved in September. Still, the vote on his amendment indicates strong support for his language — the House approved the amendment in a 355-5 vote.

Tipton noted that both members of Congress and survey respondents agree on the need to save money at a time of $1 trillion budget deficits. He said one of the respondents to the Bureau of Reclamation survey wrote back: "No wonder the US is having $$ problems if the government has extra $2 bills to mail out randomly."