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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.



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