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Public Citizen Files Complaint for Violations of Franking Privilege

U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) appears to have

abused his franking privileges and violated U.S. House of

Representative rules against using taxpayer funds to pay for political

mailers promoting himself within 90 days of the general election,

Public Citizen charged today in a complaint filed with the House

Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards.

Members of Congress are allowed to distribute mass mailings to their

constituents at taxpayer expense touting their legislative records

("franked" mail), but not within 90 days of an election. A bipartisan

Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards, known as the "Franking

Commission," is responsible for oversight and regulation of the

franking privilege in the House of Representatives.

"Right up into October, just weeks before the election, voters have

been receiving two-page color mailers paid for by taxpayers, with Peter

Roskam’s name splashed all over them," said Joan Claybrook, president

of Public Citizen. "Taxpayers should not be footing the bill to

advertise Roskam’s candidacy for Congress."

"Using tax dollars to pay for campaign literature is a clear

violation of the franking laws," said David Arkush, director of Public

Citizen’s Congress Watch division. "The mailers are campaign

advertisements, plain and simple. They promote Roskam for things like ‘Protecting Children from Poison’ and ‘Securing Our Borders.’ "

Roskam consistently has tapped taxpayers to pay for mass mailings to

his congressional district, amounting to almost $200,000 in legitimate

franked mail from January 2007 through June 2008. The franking rules

bar sending mass mailings to constituents after Aug. 6.

If the commission finds a violation, it will refer the matter to the

House ethics committee for enforcement. The ethics committee has wide

latitude in all its enforcement actions, ranging from a private letter

of reprimand, to civil penalty, to removal from office. This issue

likely would result in a letter of reprimand and a requirement that the

campaign reimburse taxpayers for the franked mail.

"We urge the ethics committee to severely reprimand Roskam and

require him to pay a civil penalty and pay back the taxpayers for any

franked mail sent out since early August," said Craig Holman, campaign

finance lobbyist for Public Citizen.

Read the complaint here.