Public Citizen Files Complaint Against Chair of House Resources Committee Over Abuse of Franking Privileges

Nov. 11, 2004

Public Citizen Files Complaint Against Chair of House Resources Committee Over Abuse of Franking Privileges

Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) Uses Taxpayer Funds to Pay for Pro-Bush Mailings Sent to Presidential Swing States

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen today filed a complaint with the House Commission on Mailing Standards charging that U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) has abused his franking privileges and violated federal laws against using taxpayer funds to pay for political mailers promoting the election of President Bush under the guise of official government business.

Just weeks before the election, Pombo, chair of the House Resources Committee, spent $68,081 of taxpayer funds to pay for the distribution of 175,000 color leaflets praising the Bush administration’s policy to open up the national parks to snowmobiling. Most of the leaflets were sent to snowmobile owners in the critical swing states of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Federal law prohibits officeholders and committees from sending out mailers at taxpayer expense within 90 days of an election, unless the mailers qualify as “normal and regular business,” such as meeting agendas.

“This is clearly a violation of the franking laws against using tax dollars to pay for campaign literature,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Titled ‘Protecting Your Right to Ride,’ this mailer touts Bush’s record for opening the national parks to snowmobiles and was mailed primarily to snowmobile owners in critical swing states.”

Federal franking laws also require that taxpayer financed mailers not be excessively political or partisan and that all government mailers be approved by the Franking Commission.

“Rep. Pombo’s mailer repeatedly praises the Bush administration’s policy ‘to make sure you always have access to ride,’ and harshly criticizes the Clinton administration for its ‘infamous ban’ on snowmobiling in Yellowstone Park,” said Craig Holman, legislative representative for Public Citizen. “Worse yet, there is no record that either Pombo or the House Resources Committee ever sought or received approval for this political mailing from the Franking Commission, which I doubt would have been given.”

To view Public Citizen’s complaint, as well as Pombo’s political mailer, click here.

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