Recently, I received some campaign literature in the mail. I thought it was a bit early — after all, the election is still two months away. Usually, when I receive this type of material, I toss it right into the recycle bin, treating material from Democrats and Republicans equally.
But then I looked more closely. I saw the face of Jon Runyan on the material. “Interesting,” I thought. I knew Runyan’s re-election campaign was still a year away. “I wonder who he’s endorsing,” I said to myself. So I looked at the ad again.
Much to my surprise, it was a campaign ad for Runyan himself. But even more amazing was the fact that he used his congressional franking privilege to pay for and mail the campaign ad.
Franking, or the use of taxpayer money to send information to constituents, is a privilege afforded to our federal legislators dating back to Revolutionary days. It is supposed to facilitate the flow of information from a congressman to his constituents. It is not supposed to be used for political campaigns.
Of course, the line between information and politicking is murky. But Runyan’s piece (which appears below the fold) crosses the line. He bashes President Obama and provides two misleading photographs that make it appear that he is accessible to his constituents. In fact, according to his congressional office, many of his appearances are at private venues, and the ones that are public are not listed on his House web site. Runyan normally appears in front of friendly audiences like seniors and defense contractors.
Do other politicians abuse the franking privilege? I’m sure some do. But this piece is so blatantly political that it deserves special mention.
As indicated in his ad, Jon Runyan has been a solid supporter of the Tea Party agenda. Let’s hope that the Democrats in New Jersey’s Third District can offer up an intelligent electable progressive candidate in 2012.