Franking

Topics

Definition of the Frank

The frank is the facsimile signature of a Senator in corner of an envelope that takes the place of a stamp and authorizes sending official material through the domestic mail without prepayment of postage.

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Authorized Users of the Frank

The following are authorized users of the frank:

  • Senators
  • Senators-Elect (for Senate-related duties)
  • Former Senators (for 90 days to close the office)
  • Vice President
  • Sergeant at Arms and Secretary of the Senate
  • Senate Legal Counsel and Senate Legislative Counsel
  • Surviving Senate spouses (for 180 days after a Senator’s death, a surviving spouse may send nonpolitical mail relating to the death of the Senator)
  • Senate committees under the frank of the chairman for official committee business only
  • Democratic Caucus and Republican Conference.
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Franking Highlights
  • The frank is to be used only for official Senate business.
  • The frank may not be loaned to an outside group or organization.  For example, an outside organization’s pamphlet cannot be included in a franked mailing.
  • The frank is not free postage.  The costs associated with delivering franked mail are paid with taxpayer dollars out of an office’s official funds.
  • The frank may not be used to send materials outside the United States unless the address is an APO or FPO address.
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Frankable Mail
  • Matters of public concern and Congressional actions
  • Official newsletters and press releases
  • Questionnaires seeking public opinion
  • Mail between D.C. and state office
  • Mail to other Members of Congress and all other legislators
  • Congratulations on a public distinction
  • Federal regulations or federal publications containing general information
  • Nonpartisan voter registration or election information
  • Biographical material or pictures in federal publications or in direct response
  • Whole or part of the Congressional Record
  • Public service material created exclusively with appropriated funds
  • Seeds and agricultural reports
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Examples of Frankable Public Distinctions
  • Recent naturalization as an American citizen
  • Receipt of a high school diploma by a senior citizen through an adult education program
  • Enlistment or re-enlistment in the Armed Forces or acceptance into a U.S military service academy
  • Becoming an Eagle Scout, a VFW Commander, or an American Legion Commander
  • Becoming a director of a state museum
  • Being elected or appointed to public office
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Nonfrankable Mail
  • Laudatory or complimentary to a Member on a personal rather than official basis
  • Holiday greetings unless they are an incidental reference in otherwise frankable mail
  • Senator’s family activities other than in connection with official duties
  • Solicitations for political support or financial assistance
  • Personal mail
  • Condolences sent to the public
  • Congratulations on a personal distinction

 

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Examples of Nonfrankable Personal Distinctions
  • Birth, marriage, or anniversary
  • Graduation from high school or college, or selection as class valedictorian
  • Being in the top 10% of a graduating class
  • Promotion in a business
  • Establishing a new business
  • Registering to vote
  • Receiving an award from a local organization
  • Mention in an article in a trade association journal or newspaper

PLEASE NOTE:  Mail related to personal distinctions may be sent using officially-related funds.  Letters of personal distinction are not rendered frankable when mailed in direct response.

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Definition of Mass Mailing

A mass mailing is a mailing of 500 or more substantially similar pieces of mail within one session of Congress, regardless of whether the pieces are mailed at same time or separately. 

All franked mass mailings must be prepared and mailed by the Senate Service Department.  Mass mailing funds are limited to $50,000 each fiscal year.

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Mass Mailing Does Not Include
  • Mail in direct response (must be mailed not more than 120 days after the original receipt of the written request)
  • Mail to other Members of Congress, federal, state, or local officials
  • New releases to the media
  • Town meeting notices (please consult with the Rules Committee regarding the content of town meeting notices)
  • Federal publications or items provided to all Senators or made available for purchase with official funds for distribution
  • Responding to a signed petition
  • Electronic communications (please consult with the Rules Committee regarding the content of electronic communications)
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Mass Mailing Requirements
  • Must be sent under the frank
  • No more than 2 sheets (front and back) of legal-sized paper or their equivalent
  • Prepared by or for the Senator making the mailing
  • Information concerning the views of or otherwise relating to the Senator
  • No gratuitous biographical information
  • Limited to an average of 8 personal references per page.  A personal reference is any appearance of the Senator’s name, title, or official positions, and the Senator’s photo in the masthead.  Pronouns such as “I” or “me” do not count as personal references, nor does the frank itself.
  • Senator’s name other than in the masthead may not have a font larger than ¼ of an inch
  • Photos of the Senator alone may be no larger than 12-square inches, and a picture of the Senator with others may be no larger than 20-square inches
  • Limited to 4 photos of the Senator, excluding the masthead
  • Photos must relate to the text of the mailing
  • At the bottom of the first page of the mailing the phrase “PREPARED, PUBLISHED, AND MAILED AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE” must appear no smaller than 7 point font
  • May not be personal or partisan
  • Must be prepared by the Office of Printing, Graphics and Direct Mail
  • May not use private funds to purchase paper, print, or prepare any mass mailing
  • Must be registered quarterly with the Office of Public Records
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Moratoria
  • No mass mailing may be made within 60 days immediately before the date of any primary or general election for any federal, state, or local office in which the Senator is a candidate.   No moratorium exists if an election is uncontested and there is no legal possibility for a write-in candidate exists.
  • No Senator may send a mass mailing within 60 days immediately before biennial federal general election.
  • Town meeting notices over 500 may not be sent within 60 days immediately before the date of any primary or general election for any federal, state, or local office in which the Senator is a candidate.    There is no exception for uncontested candidacies.
  • The 60-day moratorium does not apply to mail sent under the frank of the chairman of a committee that relates to regular or normal business of the committee and does not unduly focus on the chairman.
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Request for an Advisory Opinion for a Mass Mailing

If you would like the Ethics Committee to review a mass mailing prior to distribution, a final version of the mailing must be submitted.

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Proper Use of Senate Letterhead

Official Senate letterhead, using the words “United States Senate” or “Official Business,” may be used for the following:

  • All mail that is properly sent under the frank 
  • Congratulatory letters on personal or public distinctions, birthdays, and graduations that are sent in the Senator’s official capacity
  • Condolences that are sent in the Senator’s official capacity
  • Mail to other legislators and public officials regarding official or officially-related business of the Senator’s office
  • Inside mail “Dear Colleague” letters
  • Letters of recommendation for staff and constituents
  • Letters to Senator’s state offices regarding official and officially-related activities of the office
  • Responses to invitations to events that are official or officially-related
  • General non-partisan voting registration information.

Please be mindful that just because official letterhead is appropriate, the use of the frank may not necessarily be appropriate.

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Improper Use of Senate Letterhead

Non-Senate organizations or individuals may not use the words “United States Senate” or “Official Business” on letterhead or envelopes.  Official Senate letterhead may not be used for the following (letterhead and stamps not paid for with Senate funds may be used in the alternative):

  • Solicitation of a financial contribution or other form of assistance for any campaign or election
  • Solicitation of a contribution on behalf of charity
  • Any campaign or campaign-related correspondence
  • Personal correspondence
  • Political or partisan correspondence, including political endorsements
  • Thank you letters to contributors or campaign workers
  • Correspondence regarding political fundraisers
  • Responses to personal invitations, such as weddings, birthdays, and other celebrations
  • Commercial endorsement letters.
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Rule XL

Franking Priviledge and Radio and Television Studios43

1. A Senator or an individual who is a candidate for nomination for election, or election, to the Senate may not use the frank for any mass mailing (as defined in section 3210(a)(6)(E)44 of Title 39, United States Code) if such mass mailing is mailed at or delivered to any postal facility less than sixty days immediately before the date of any primary or general election (whether regular, special, or runoff) in which the Senator is a candidate for public office or the individual is a candidate for Senator, unless the candidacy of the Senator in such election is uncontested.45

2. A Senator shall use only official funds of the Senate, including his official Senate allowances, to purchase paper, to print, or to prepare any mass mailing material which is to be sent out under the frank.

3. (a) When a Senator disseminates information under the frank by a mass mailing (as defined in section 3210(a)(6)(E) of Title 39, United States Code), the Senator shall register quarterly46 with the Secretary of the Senate such mass mailings. Such registration shall be made by filing with the Secretary a copy of the matter mailed and providing, on a form supplied by the Secretary, a description of the group or groups of persons to whom the mass mailing was mailed.

(b) The Secretary of the Senate shall promptly make available for public inspection and copying a copy of the mail matter registered, and a description of the group or groups of persons to whom the mass mailing was mailed.

4. Nothing in this rule shall apply to any mailing under the frank which is (a) in direct response to inquiries or requests from persons to whom the matter is mailed; (b) addressed to colleagues in Congress or to government officials (whether Federal, State, or local); or (c) consists entirely of news releases to the communications media.

5. The Senate computer facilities shall not be used (a) to store, maintain, or otherwise process any lists or categories of lists of names and addresses identifying the individuals included in such lists as campaign workers or contributors, as members of a political party, or by any other partisan political designation, (b) to produce computer printouts except as authorized by user guides approved by the Committee on Rules and Administration, or (c) to produce mailing labels for mass mailings, or computer tapes and discs, for use other than in service facilities maintained and operated by the Senate or under contract to the Senate. The Committee on Rules and Administration shall prescribe such regulations not inconsistent with the purposes of this paragraph as it determines necessary to carry out such purposes.

6. (a) The radio and television studios provided by the Senate or by the House of Representatives may not be used by a Senator or an individual who is a candidate for nomination for election, or election, to the Senate less than sixty days immediately before the date of any primary or general election (whether regular, special, or runoff) in which that Senator is a candidate for public office or that individual is a candidate for Senator, unless the candidacy of the Senator in such election is uncontested.47

(b) This paragraph shall not apply if the facilities are to be used at the request of, and at the expense of, a licensed broadcast organization or an organization exempt from taxation under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954.

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43 Section 3210 of Title 39, U.S.C., contains statutory provisions are parallel to certain provisions of rule XL relating to the franking privilege. See Senate Manual Sec. 1096, S. Doc. 107– 1.

44 Citation corrected by S. Res. 187, 101–1, Oct. 2, 1989, pursuant to Pub. L. 97–69, Oct. 26, 1981.

45 As amended, S. Res. 224, 103–2, June 21, 1994.

46 Pursuant to Pub. L. 101–520, Nov. 5, 1990, 2 U.S.C. 59g, See Senate Manual Sec. 304. S. Doc. 107–1.

47 As amended, S. Res. 224, 103–2, June 21, 1994.