Franking Privilege: Mass Mailings and Mass Communications in the House, 1997-2014 [May 6, 2015] [open pdf - 303KB]
"Despite significant reductions in congressional mail postage costs over the past 25 years, critics continue to raise concerns about the franking privilege. While proponents of the franking privilege argue that the frank allows Members to fulfill their representational duties by providing for greater communication between the Member and individual constituents, critics argue that it is both financially wasteful and gives an unfair advantage to incumbents in congressional elections. In particular, mass mailings have come under increased scrutiny as critics argue that the vast majority of franked mail is unsolicited and, in effect, publicly funded campaign literature. This report provides an analysis of House Member mass mailings (1997-2008, 2012-2014) and mass communications (2009-2014). A mass mailing is defined by statute as a franked mailing of 500 or more substantially similar pieces of unsolicited mail sent in the same session of Congress. Mass communications include all unsolicited mailings or communications of substantially identical content distributed to 500 or more persons, regardless of media. Examples of mass communications include radio, television, newspaper, and Internet advertisements; automated phone calls; mass facsimiles; and mass emails distributed to a non-subscriber emailing list."
CRS Report for Congress, RL34458