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No Christmas cards from Congress: Merry ‘Franking’ Christmas

capitolhill122511_optBY BOB HOLT
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

If you didn’t receive a Christmas card this year from the approximately 89 percent of Congress members who could use your support, don’t be disappointed: there’s a reason.

Americans receive a lot of mail from their local Congress all year round, but there are actually official rules about what they are permitted to say.

Members of Congress who want to submit a holiday message for their constituents using your tax dollars to pay for the mailing have been told that such greetings are ineligible. Admittedly that tends to take away the sincerity of the Congressperson’s greeting if we’re paying for the card ourselves.

According to the Washington Examiner, a section under “Greetings” in the Member’s Congressional Handbook reads like this: "Expenses related to purchase or distribution of greetings, including holiday celebrations, condolences, and congratulations for personal distinctions (anniversaries, birthdays, etc.), are not reimbursable.”

Use of tax dollars for Congressional mailings is a process known as “franking.” Congressional franking dates back to 1775, and allows mail from government officials to be sent without using a postage stamp, according to Mail Online. They can only use franking for mail dealing with Official Business. In 1973, Congress began the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards.

A spokesman for the franking commission said the holidays may be referenced in a communication as long as a greeting is not the main purpose of the communication. Salley Wood told the Examiner, “Incidental use of the phrase Happy Holidays is permissible but Merry Christmas is not.”

Thestar.com reports that senators are allowed to use officially related funding to send holiday cards to constituents. But holiday cards for friends are to be sent with personal funds.

And might I add a "Merry Franking Christmas" to Congress and the Commission.

 

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