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.