Deborah wrote a letter about the use and/or misuse of franking
privileges during political campaigns by political incumbents. Two
local newspapers published the letter. Printed below is a copy of the
letter along with the web site locations it can be found on the
Terry Lierman was right to question whether U.S. Rep. Constance A.
Morella, R-8th District,
used the franking privilege to advance her political position at
taxpayer expense ("Return Morella
mailer to sender," letters, Aug. 17). Franked newsletters may properly
be used to keep
constituents informed with reference to the member's job performance,
but it is improper to use
such a mailing as a campaign piece in an upcoming election. Mr. Lierman
claims that Rep. Morella
misrepresented the truth in an item in the newsletter, and that she
crossed the line between
informing (legal) and campaigning (illegal).
There is a larger issue here than whether Rep. Morella went over the
line in one particular instance.
The franking privilege makes it possible for members of Congress to
constituents using the U.S. mail, at taxpayer expense. Franked
newsletters serve the valuable
purpose of keeping us informed about the activities of our
representatives. Such newsletters are to
be used by the representative to provide information, but not to
campaign for re-election.
The problem is that, in practice, it is difficult to separate the
two functions. It is only natural that a
member of Congress will use the franked newsletter to promote a
positive image. Inevitably, such
newsletters will have an effect on an upcoming election, giving the
incumbent the edge.
This will be so no matter how scrupulously the member tries to
maintain the distinction and avoid
turning the newsletter into a campaign piece.
I suggest we recognize this inevitable effect on elections of
franked constituent newsletters, but not
lose sight of the legitimate purpose the newsletters serve. To some
extent, this effect already has
been recognized; by law, members are not permitted to send such franked
newsletters on the eve
of an election. But further reform is needed.
Congress should enact legislation providing that for each franked
newsletter a member is allowed
to send between the primary and the general election, the candidate
nominated by the party (or
parties) not in power be allowed to send a similar mailer at taxpayer
expense. This is really an
incremental approach to the public financing of congressional campaigns
- a cause I fully support.
DEBORAH A. VOLLMER
(Editor's note: Ms. Vollmer sought the Democratic nomination for Maryland's 8th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.)
The letter was published in print and online August 23, 2000 in the Montgomery
It was also published online August 23, 2000 in The
The print edition of The Gazette published the letter in their August 25th issue.
Click here to go to: Schmootsie Says. .
.(Comments on Campaign Finance Reform)