Most of us recently found a very polished 9 inch by 12 inch, full color, double sided flier from Scott Tipton in the mailbox that attempts to extol his efforts “Fighting to Prevent Wildfires” or “Reforming Taxes”. Representative Tipton is up for re-election in November, so of course he wants to contact the 250,000-300,000 households in the 3rd Congressional District to toot his own horn. That’s called campaigning. But, if you look at the fine print on the front upper right corner near Tipton’s signature, it clearly states, “This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense.”
That’s because this mailing was sent under the 1775 law that allows congresspeople to communicate with constituents using only their signature and avoid paying any postage (but not the cost to produce the mail piece). That’s called franking. If you cut out the postcard and indicate you want to “Stay Informed”, you must now pay the postage and, it is my guess, you will get a request for a campaign contribution by return mail (or email).
Statistically, the incumbent has the advantage in any election and technically the mailing is legal, although right in that grey area. But using taxpayer dollars for a mass mailing to brag and campaign this close to an election is, at the least, tacky.