Apparently someone forgot to tell Rob Wittman that it isn’t ok to use taxpayer dollars to prepare, publish and mail his political campaign materials. The “franking privilege” allow members of Congress to send “official mail,” under their signature, without postage – although this sort of mail is not free as it is paid for by annual tax-funded appropriations. As Rob is no doubt aware, political campaign mailers do not fall under what is allowable as “official mail.”
Additionally, congressmen are prohibited (Section 3210 (a)(6)(A), Title 39 U.S.C.) from sending out any mass mailings during the 90-days preceding the date of an election – be it primary or general. A mass mailing is defined as “an unsolicited mailing of 500 or more pieces of substantially identical content – whether mailed singly or in bulk – over the course of a legislative year.”
Since the 90-day blackout period begun, Rob has not shied away from using taxpayer funds to send out what are clearly campaign mailers. Kandy Hilliard, Chair of the Stafford Democratic Committee, issued a press release this morning that accused him of misusing taxpayer funds for campaign expenses and called for a formal investigation to be launched.
Stafford Democratic Committee Chair Kandy Hilliard to File Complaint Against Rep. Rob Wittman Cites Misuse of Taxpayer Funds for Campaign Expenses
Congressman Rob Wittman is using our tax dollars to fund his re-election campaign. By using tax money to print and mail political campaign materials, Congressman Wittman is abusing the method that Members of Congress use to keep in touch with constituents.
This method, called the “franking privilege” allows congressmen to mail their official documents for free. The rules for use of this privilege are governed by the Committee on House Administration’s Franking Commission. To safeguard the interests of the public and to ensure that taxpayers are not underwriting campaign expenses, the Franking Commission has a “blackout period” of 90 days before an election. The “black out period” for this election started August 2, 2010. Yet Mr. Wittman continues to send campaign mailers using the Congressional Frank well beyond this date.
In the last three weeks, I have received two franked postcards from Mr. Wittman that directly respond to issues that have been raised by the Krystal Ball campaign. In mid-September, Mr. Wittman sent out another direct mail piece, a four-color, glossy 8×11 foldout, touting Mr. Wittman’s political activities. Ironically, this piece includes the quotes “Government spending is out of control. It’s time to restore fiscal responsibility in Washington.” (These mailers are attached to this release.)
People throughout the First District have also shared with me that they have also received these taxpayer funded campaign mailers from Rob Wittman.
Today I am announcing that I will file a formal complaint with the House Franking Commission. In addition to this complaint, I will request that this misuse of public funds for Rob Wittman’s re-election campaign be thoroughly investigated and that appropriate measures are taken to prevent any further misuse of tax payer’s hard-earned money. Furthermore, Congressman Wittman should return all the taxpayer money that he used for his reelection campaign.
It’s the height of arrogance when an incumbent politician abuses our tax money to pay for his campaign expenses. What Congressman Wittman is doing is just plain wrong and it must stop.
Rob’s opponent, Krystal Ball, has continuously raised the fact, throughout the campaign, that he does a lot of talking about “the [Chesapeake ] Bay, and how important it is and how we have to clean it up, and then he turns around and votes against the Clean Estuaries Act.” As recently as one week ago, Rob sent out a taxpayer-funded postcard in response to her claims, which followed a very similar taxpayer-funded postcard sent out the prior week by his office. So not only is Rob using taxpayer dollars to fund his campaign mailers, he also appears to be in clear violation of the 90-day blackout period on sending mass unsolicited mailings.
Along with this most recent mailing, Rob also sent out another direct mail piece in mid-September that highlighted his political activities and was clearly meant to advertise his candidacy. From what I’ve been able to gather, it leaves little doubt that this is meant to support his re-election campaign and also appears to be clearly in violation of the 90-day blackout period on unsolicited mass mailings.
The explicit limitations placed on the congressional “franking privilege” are meant to not only protect taxpayers, but also to ensure an equal playing field in an election year. Rob should issue an apology and immediately return all taxpayer funds that he has used in his re-election bid.
I understand that Rob is a career politician who believes that the rules don’t apply equally to him and who now relies on our tax dollars as his primary source of income, thus, epitomizing what is wrong with the culture in Washington today; however, this is not a valid excuse for his behavior.
Einstein stated that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” Clearly, folks looking for a change in Washington would be “insane” to send him back. Rather, it’s time to send Rob packing.
What we need is a new mindset. One where the rules apply again, ethical lines are clearly respected, and members, regardless of party, can work together as colleagues to solve the big problems we are facing together. We need to look to the next generation of leaders who can cast aside decades of gridlock and an “us vs. them” attitude. In the upcoming election, Krystal Ball is clearly that candidate!