Franks a Lot


Common Cause

Political scientists have long argued that Congress's franking privilege—the right to send out "free" mailings to constituents—is a taxpayer subsidy for reelection campaigns. A recent study by Common Cause tends to confirm that position.

Looking at the 1987–1988 Congress, Common Cause found that the 27 senators up for reelection in 1988 spent an average of 48 cents per household on franked mailings—55 percent more than senators whose terms expire later and 220 percent more than the six Senators who chose to retire in 1988. The House of Representatives does not require members to report franking expenses.

Four senators reported no franked mass mailings in 1987–1988: Jake Garn (R–Utah), Jesse Helms (R–N.C.), Nancy Kassebaum (R–Kans.), and Warren Rudman (R–N.H.). None of them was up for reelection in 1988. David Boren (D–Okla.) and Pete Wilson (R–Calif.) reported minimal franking expenses (less than one-half cent per household). Wilson was up for reelection, but as the author of a bill that would limit the Senate's franking budget, he couldn't spend as lavishly as his colleagues.