Franking Commission Dismisses Roskam Complaint

Posted December 16, 2008 at 12:31pm

The House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards has ruled that Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) did not violate any franking rules by sending out newsletters to constituents before the Nov. 4 elections.

The decision comes more than a month after the nonprofit organization Public Citizen filed a complaint with the commission, alleging that Roskam sent out mass mailings after the Aug. 6 cutoff date. Under House rules, Members are prohibited from sending out official, unsolicited mail 90 days before the Nov. 7 election.

But in a letter, commission Chairman Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) and House Administration ranking member Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) write that the newsletters were not mass mailings and were mailed before Aug. 6.

“[T]he Franking Commission finds that there is no substantial reason to believe that a violation of franking law has occurred, and therefore dismisses the complaint,” they write.

Public Citizen’s complaint referred to two newsletters from Roskam’s office: “Standing Up to Big Oil” and “Protecting Our Families from Tainted Food.” The group alleged that some of Roskam’s constituents received the “two-page color mailers” in October.

But the franking commission discovered that the mailers were deposited with the U.S. Postal Service on July 30 and Aug. 5. Roskam also sent each newsletter to fewer than 500 constituents, the threshold for being considered “mass mailings.”

Craig Holman, Public Citizen’s legislative representative, said it was doubtful that the group would pursue the matter further. But he questioned the decision, reiterating that some of Roskam’s mailers reached constituents as late as October.

“It’s distressing,” he said. “I just don’t believe the post office took 60 days to mail these.”

But Matt Vriesema, Roskam’s spokesman, dismissed the idea that the mailings were late. “Every accusation Public Citizen has made against Rep. Roskam has been proven false,” he said, “further demonstrating the organization’s willingness to place partisanship over the truth.”

Roskam was re-elected to a second term in his suburban Chicago district on Nov. 4, winning 58 percent of the vote in a race against Iraq War veteran Jill Morgenthaler (D).