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Franking Sense June 20, 2007

Posted by federalist in Government.

I was outraged today to receive what appeared to be a campaign mailing from my “Honorable” Congressional Representative bearing the fine print, “This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense.”  How thoughtful.  My “representative” spent some of my tax money to remind me about all the hard work he’s doing for me.  The 40-pound oversized cardstock was a nice touch, as was the professional layout and the beautiful color offset printing.

There’s a picture of him on each side of the mailing, which apparently went to every single residence in his district.  His name appears eight times, not including the URL for his web site which is helpfully featured on both sides.  With free publicity like this, how can an incumbent candidate lose?

After digging into this abuse I learned that Congress itself regulates the expenditure of tax money on mailings — known as the “franking privilege.”  There are legitimate reasons for this, which Congress itself eloquently expresses in 39 USC Section 3910:

It is the policy of the Congress that the privilege of sending mail as franked mail shall be established … in order to assist and expedite the conduct of the official business, activities, and duties of the Congress of the United States.

What follows is a case study in why government has to be restrained:  From this simple policy follows 2500 words of U.S. law outlining “The Intent of Congress” in this policy, which is further elaborated into a 72-page “Franking Manual,” which is maintained by the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards.  Indeed, from a 44-word policy Congress proceeded to carve out so many rules and loopholes that my Representative’s propaganda could be produced and mailed at my expense and still comply with the letter of the law.



1. Hamilton - June 29, 2007

Yes, a real servant of the people.

But there are more pressing and unfortunate reasons why many incumbents enjoy uncompetitive re-elections.

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