GOP 9th Congressional District challenger Ricky Gill says Democratic incumbent Rep. Jerry McNerney is abusing his powers of office with a trio of mailers sent at taxpayers’ expense. (See links below.)
Gill may not like it — most challengers don’t — but incumbency has its advantages.
And one of them is the members’ ability to use their office budgets to send out mail to constituents and tout their accomplishments.
There are rules, of course. Members must submit the mailers to the House Franking Commission for an advisory opinion. They cannot contain personal biographical material, make direct references to an election, make statements of a partisan tone or ask for money. The House also imposes a 90-day blackout period on mass mailings prior to an election. (Read the full checklist here. Or if you really want to know more, click here for the full manual.)
But there are no prohibitions on stating your positions on policies or touting your record or accomplishments as an elected member of the House of Representatives.
Objections to the use of franked mail are an oft-used campaign tactic. Back in 2006 when McNerney ran against then-incumbent Richard Pombo, his campaign screamed bloody murder about the mailers that came out of the Republican’s office, too.
UPDATE FROM GILL CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN COLIN HUNTER:
“The mailers do, in fact, violate the letter of at least some of the franking guidelines. For example, the San Joaquin County mailer violates the guideline pertaining to the use of personal references (in the form of the Member’s name or personal pronouns). They also violate prohibitions on content that is political or partisan “in fact or in tone.”
Viewed as a whole, the mailers also clearly violate Congress’ intent, expressed in statute, that a Member not use the frank to send content purely “laudatory” of the Member. The use of phrases like “McNerney championed,” “McNerney fought,” etc., serves no purpose other than to applaud McNerney on a personal basis.
It’s important to view this in context — take the San Joaquin County mailer as an example. McNerney has stated that he plans to move to San Joaquin County. He lost the San Joaquin County portion of the 11th District in 2010 by several points. Moreover, his FEC reports consistently show that he can’t raise money in San Joaquin County. Viewed in context, then, the “Delivering Results for San Joaquin County” mailer is clearly motivated by a desire to soften the ground in this portion of the new 9th District.”