Allow for faster correspondence between Representatives and their constituents.

In addition to streamlining the process for district staff, Members noted the need for improvements to the speed of the Commission approval process. Currently, Members who wish to communicate with their constituents by postal mail and digital mail alike are required to receive a Franking Staff Advisory Opinion. However, the process does not take advantage of the speed offered by digital communications, and sometimes the review process takes so long that by the time it is approved, the Member’s message is no longer relevant.

Josh Billigmeier, Co-Founder and CEO of Fireside, a software company that works with Congress, in testimony before the Committee highlighted an example of how the Commission’s approval speed can make or break constituent communication:

 “Imagine that you have just finished watching the State of Union address, and you want to send an email to your constituents highlighting some of the policies outlined in the speech. Your staff drafts up an email, and they send it to the Franking Commission for approval. Your staff may have to wait for days, if not a week, to get approval for franking to send out that mail during these surge times. The franking approval process often takes far too long.”
Josh Billigmeier, October 31, 2019

But while increased speed is undoubtedly preferred, Committee member Rep. Rob Woodall reiterated the importance of maintaining the current level of quality the Commission is known for:

“I like the quality standards in the frank, but it takes time for the Franking Commission to respond to that. I would like to do away with the frank as a signature on a mail package, but I want to keep the quality of the correspondence. What is there in technology that I don't have to wait 36 hours to get something back from the Franking Commission so that I can respond?”
Rep. Rob Woodall, June 5, 2019

To ensure efficient communication with constituents, but still maintain a quality review process, the Committee recommended updating the approval process to better reflect modern forms of communication. As Committee member Rodney Davis noted in testimony before the Committee, “Does it make sense that a Facebook ad going to 500 people at a cost of $20 is subject to the same review as a physical mailer going to 100,000 people at a cost of $50,000 taxpayer dollars?” 

The Committee recommended that the Commission take into consideration the medium, size and reach of the mailing when reviewing franked mail. Digital mail, like email and social media for example, should be subjected to an alternate, quicker review process. The approval process needed to better reflect modern forms of communications and improve Members’ ability to quickly communicate with those they represent. This recommendation has also been implemented, as mass emails and advertisements under $500 no longer require an advisory opinion.

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