The American Democracy Legal Fund has filed a complaint with the House Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards for violating the law prohibiting use of franked mail for political purposes.
Rep. Todd Young has used the franking privilege to send franked mail that contained political content. Rep. Young has been criticized by Indiana editorial boards for excessive use of Franking privileges, funded by taxpayers for sending out thousands of pieces of unsolicited mail with an undeniable political objective. Rep. Young’s office paid Franking Sense LLC for services with respect to franked mail, a company whose goal is making Republican congressmen “look good to their constituents.” The facts indicate that Rep. Young has used these mass mailings to reinforce and echo his campaign pledges, promises, and political positions on a variety of subjects.
The complaint is available below and here and full exhibits are here. The American Democracy Legal Fund holds candidates for office accountable for possible ethics and/or legal violations. It is run by Brad Woodhouse.
HOUSE COMMISSION ON CONGRESSIONAL MAILING STANDARDS
American Democracy Legal Fund
455 Massachusetts Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Representative Todd Young,
I, Brad Woodhouse, am [position] of [entity], located at [address].
This complaint arises under the franking laws extended to Members of the House of Representatives of the United States.
Respondent Todd Young is a Member of the House of Representatives, representing the 9th Congressional District in Indiana.
Franked mail may not be used for political purposes. See 39 U.S.C. § 3210(a)(5)(C).
In particular, the Franking Regulations prohibit franked material from containing materials – including slogans – used in campaign literature or specific campaign pledges or promises. Franking Regulation Ch. 2, § 4(a).
Respondent is a candidate for nomination to the United States Senate from the state of Indiana.
Respondents principal campaign committee is Friends of Todd Young.
The attached pieces of mail (the Franked Mail) were sent using Respondents franking privilege.
On information and belief, the Franked Mail pieces were part of various mass mailings that contained more than 500 unsolicited pieces with substantially identical content. See 39 U.S.C. § 3210(a)(6)(E).
Respondent has been criticized by The Indianapolis Star for his excessive use of Franking privileges, funded by taxpayers, to send out thousands of pieces of unsolicited mail with an undeniable political objective. See Indianapolis Star, Editorial, May 12, 2012 (stating that “anyone who has taken note of the self-serving nature of the typical splashy brochure from Washington would deem it more a campaign ad than a civics update.”); see also Bloomington Herald-Times, Editorial, Sept. 17, 2011 (stating that Respondent’s use of Franked mail exemplifies that he “sometimes ha[d] difficulty distinguishing governing from politics. The unscientific multiple choice question on the survey appears to have been drawn up to get results consistent with positions already taken by [Representative Young] and his GOP colleagues.”)
Respondent’s office paid Franking Sense LLC at least $249,174 between 2011 and 2015 for its services with respect to franked mail. Franking Sense describes its goal as making Republican congressmen “look good to their constituents.”
The Franked Mail Political Material
The Franked Mail at issue includes, but is not limited to, the following political content from Respondent:
The entirety of the three-page “Update on Delaying Obamacare Individual Mandate Tax Newsletter” concerns Respondents position on the Affordable Care Act, its individual mandate, President Obama’s alleged missteps. See Ex. A.
Respondent’s Newsletter and Questionnaire on Medicare” discusses Respondent’s position on Medicare while barely discussing any official action and only reinforce Respondent’s campaign positions. See Ex. B.
Respondent’s “Newsletter on the Balanced Budget Amendment” reads more like a piece of campaign material than it does a newsletter relaying official business. See Ex. C.
Respondent used his Franking privileges to purchase advertisements highlighting his views on gun control and the federal budget masked as slanted survey questions. See Ex. D.
Respondent issued a “Newsletter on Protecting Retirement Security” that did not discuss any official business but rather stated his positions on Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. See Ex. E. The newsletter contained a section entitled “Solutions that I support”, outlining Respondent’s positions on retirement issues. See Ex. E.
Violations of Law
The facts indicate that Respondent has used these mass mailings to reinforce and echo his campaign pledges, promises, and political positions on a variety of subjects.
Respondent has violated both 39 U.S.C. § 3210(a)(5)(C) and the Franking Regulations.
Respondent is personally responsible for abuses of the franking privilege carrying his signature. Franking Regulation Ch. 1, § 8.
Wherefore, the Complainant demands that the Respondent be found in violation of the franking laws as alleged; that the Commission order Respondent to personally reimburse the U.S. Treasury for the costs of the printing and mailing of the mass mailing described above; and that the Commission order such other relief as is proper and lawful.