Brian Sheehan at Postalnews.com pointed out today that the legislative branch has an appropriation to pay the Postal Service for franked mail. Here is his commentary on the matter. So it looks as if it's the taxpayers, not the Postal Service, who are footing the Welfare for Endangered Congressmen bill. I apologize for the confusion.
You could call it Welfare for Endangered Congressmen, but it's officially known as the franking privilege.
The ability to send postage-free mail to constituents was especially popular last year with Congressmen who faced difficult elections. Of the top 10 users of the privilege, including one who sent nearly half a million dollars worth of free postage, eight were involved in difficult elections.
In fact, six lost re-election bids, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) failed in an attempt to move to the Senate, and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) won re-election by fewer than 1,000 votes.
Congress members are supposed to use the franking privilege only for non-political mailings. But as election time rolls around, you can bet you'll get more newsletters from Congressman Blowhard about the wonderful things he's been doing -- especially if the opposing party has put a target on his back.
$4.87 per vote
"Some critics of this privilege claim that it gives members the advantage of free publicity in election years," writes Danielle Kurtzleben at usnews.com in introducing the top 10 spenders. She reports that the Number 1 franker last year was New Jersey Democrat John Adler, whose constituents were blessed with $487,176 worth of mailings from their representative. The ingrates gave him barely 100,000 votes and turned him out of office.
Congress provides no compensation to the Postal Service for franked mail. That means that either other mailers pay for all those newsletters in the form of higher postage rates or that USPS goes further into the red.
Some Congress members have falsely accused the Postal Service of seeking a government bailout. But with the Postal Service providing millions of dollars worth of free mail to Congress members and being forced to overpay billions of dollars to the federal government for pensions and retiree benefits, the question is: Who's bailing out whom?
And here's a question for those Congress members who advocate privatizing the Postal Service: Do you think UPS will send your newsletters for free?