On The Road To 2008 - Commentary on issues as we countdown to the next opportunity to change the direction of America

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Reichert Illegally Franking?

Last week I received the following letter from Congressman Dave Reichert:

July 18, 2006

Dear Mr. Kirkdorffer,

The development of transportation systems and infrastructure in our region is vital to almost every aspect of our lives. The improvement of these systems in the Puget Sound region will allow for the faster movement of goods, more time spent with families and a cleaner environment. I have made it a priority to ease the traffic congestion throughout the region because I realize the profound impact it can have on people’s daily lives. This is the reason I sought, a received, a position on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee when I arrived in Congress.

On July 28, 2005, the U.S. House of Representatives voted on the final conference report for HR. 3, the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). I was proud to be an original co-sponsor of this legislation and to serve on the conference committee. negotiating and drafting the final version. I was able to secure $38.5 million for 19 different transportation projects in our region, including $800,000 for the upgrade of Redmond old and outdated traffic signal control system. This project will provide improved detection and monitoring of Redmond’s transportation system to provide better incident response and traveler information. Construction on this project is expected to begin in 2006.

Money that is used for transportation and infrastructure creates jobs. In fact for every $1 million spent, 48 jobs are created. The $38.5 million I was able to secure could result in over 1,800 new jobs in the District. Further, these funds come from the gas taxes you pay at the pump, so I worked to ensure the money was returned to our region. As a Member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure and the co-chair of the Goods Movement Caucus, I will continue to work to bring your tax dollars home to Washington’s 8th Congressional District to improve our region’s transportation.

If you are interested in receiving additional information about this and other topics of interest, please visit my website at http://www.house.gov/reichert/ and sign up for my newsletter.


David G. Reichert
Member of Congress

I've scanned the actual letter which you can view here. I have also scanned the envelope of the letter (see below or view a larger version here).

Here's the thing about this letter from Reichert. There is no stamp, so his signature is used in lieu of a postage stamp, as explained at Wikipedia. The Wikipedia page also has an example of an envelope of a franked mailing that looks similar to my envelope:

Franked mailing envelope from Dave Reichert July 18 mailing

You will recall that last month I pointed out that Dave Reichert was abusing his franking privileges by sending out glossy mailings that were pure electioneering campaign pamphlets, and were being received by constituents within the 90 day period before an election, which was illegal. King 5 political reporter Robert Mak also dived into the matter questioning the legality of the mailings, and at least shining a light on the fact that Reichert had spent over $500,000 of tax payer money on such mailings.

Well this latest piece of franked mail was dated July 18, which is 64 days before the September 19 Primary elections - well within the 90-day no-franking window before an election.

This particular piece of mail was also unsolicited. I did not contact congressman Reichert about this subject, and it was not in response to a communication on my pert to him. Any time I have communicated with Reichert I have done so via email forms, and he has responded to them via an email of his own.

The subject matter of this piece of mail seems to be predominantly about action taken one year ago. Reichert paints a picture that he was behind funding for a variety of transportation projects for the district. However, as the highest-ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Transportation Subcommittee, Patty Murray, has been the key member of Congress that has brought in transportation project dollars for the region, not Reichert.

In summary, this letter, paid by tax payers, serves only to try to promote the accomplishments of Reichert on an issue that would have made more sense to mail constituents about a year ago, and to provide Reichert with a forum for making campaign-like pledges. It may not have the gloss and pizzazz of past mailings, but it serves the same purpose.

If you have also received such a letter I'd like to know. I'm guessing local reporters, such as Robert Mak, or David Postman, would like to know as well.

10 Comment(s):

Comment by: Anonymous Tom

Republicans do it. Democrats do it. Change the rules or don't complain.

8/01/2006 7:26 AM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer

Tom - I'm glad to see that you are in agreement that Reichert is abusing his franking privileges. I personally cannot change the rules. I don't have a direct vote to do that. However, I can bring the matter to light, and complain, and that can help push the issue to the forefront so that the rules are reviewed and changed.

If this is a legitimate issue I will send a formal complaint to the Franking Commission.

8/01/2006 8:12 AM PT  
Comment by: Anonymous Katie

I received the same letter, and was similarly mystified regarding its origins, not having ever sent any comments his way regarding transportation. However, I hadn't discovered any others who have received this letter.

8/01/2006 3:29 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer

I believe a mass mailing would be a mailing of over 500 letters. It is possible that they tried to target constituents with the content to keep those numbers down for similar letters, but I think that would be a significant hassle for them to do it that way.

I've heard reports that a number of other people had received this letter as well.

8/01/2006 3:59 PM PT  
Comment by: Anonymous Bigredmach95

As a former staffer in a DC office. The rules state that if you are within the 90 day time frame for any election of any type you can send unsolicited franked mail as long as it is under 500 pieces.

The way our office did this was - we used the mail manager that we used to track all our mail and those people who wrote on a specific topic, i.e. transportation, received an update letter on what the member had done in transportation during the session of congress.

Also, on this topic we would only send one letter which talked about one subject to one zip code range.

It is not illegal and not abusing the franking privilege by any means for this sort of mailing to go out to constituents.

Any mailing from a Congressional office over 500 pieces must first be sent to the Franking Commission where it is looked at by both Republicans and Democrats and signed off on. So, apparently the FC must have thought the glossy mailings were appropriate.

The letter you are talking about is commonly called a 499.

8/02/2006 2:14 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer

Bigredmach95 - Thanks for the info. "499" - Wonder how it got that name? ;^)

Thing is I never contacted Reichert about transportation issues, and reader Katie also claims she never did. So that piece of targeting doesn't seem to apply. So if it was just by zipcode perhaps I can find people that got letters on different topics - and maybe I can try to collect the whole set!

I still don't like that this was sent to me at tax payer expense, despite the rules. That's just an abuse of the system, and should be avoided.

One question for you though: how do you prove a mailing was a 499? How do you prove it shouldn't have gone through FC approval?

8/02/2006 2:29 PM PT  
Comment by: Anonymous bigredmach95

For anything to be approved by the FC, they must send over 500 letters for anything to go to the Franking Commission.

8/02/2006 3:13 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer

Sure, but how does the FC know? How do they know that more than 500 letters were not mailed? Where is the accounting done, and is this a public record when the FC doesn't process it?

8/02/2006 10:21 PM PT  
Comment by: Anonymous Anonymous

Well coordinated campaign against Dave Reichert by the Burner Campaign.

1. Get your friendly local columnist to run a story accusing your opponent about abusing mail privileges.
2. Instruct her to put your opponents name in the headlines, but to be truthful, admit that democrat jay Inslee actually spends more doing the same thing.
3. Edit out the part about Jay Inslee so that it looks like Reichert is the only one doing it, and forward the story to the UPI and other news and political organizations.
4. Wait for the public to be outraged.

7/01/2008 1:27 PM PT  
Comment by: Blogger Daniel Kirkdorffer

Anonymous, you missed out the first, most important step such a "well coordinated campaign" would have to have: somehow get Dave Reichert to send out hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of franked mailings that border on, and do in fact abuse the system.

7/01/2008 2:38 PM PT  

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