Allow the public to better access and view the types of communication sent by Members of Congress to their constituents.

Reforms should make it easier for constituents to know how the franking privilege is being used to communicate, and how their tax dollars are being spent. One of the longest running critiques of the franking privilege has been its cost to taxpayers. Fortunately, Congress has significantly curbed the cost of Franked Mail in the last 20 years, largely thanks to increases in digital communications discussed earlier in this chapter. Figure 8.3 provides an overview of the decline in Franking Costs since FY1988.

Figure 8.3: Total House Mail Costs, FY1988-FY2018

figure 8.3

Source: CRS Report IF10489, “Congressional Franked Mail: Overview.”

However, while Congress has significantly cut down on the cost of franked mail, the franking process is still not transparent to constituents, or to Members of Congress. For the public to view Commission advisory opinions, current rules require individuals to make a trip to the Clerk’s Office in Washington, D.C., provide identification, and pay for copies of materials sent by Members to their constituents. This is a costly inconvenience for constituents and presents serious issues of access, accountability, and transparency.

The Committee recommended that the advisory opinions made by the Commission be posted online, in a modern and accessible form. It’s essential for constituents to not only be able to communicate with their representatives; they should know the process and understand the legitimacy of these official communications as well. At the time of writing, this recommendation has been partially implemented. There is now a live, public-facing website where anyone can search approved communications by any House Member at any time. The self-reporting feature of the portal is still under construction.

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