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Monday, April 22, 2013

Congressional Official Mail Costs

Matthew Eric Glassman
Analyst on the Congress

The congressional franking privilege allows Members of Congress to send official mail via the U.S. Postal Service at government expense. This report provides information and analysis on the costs of franked mail in the House of Representatives and Senate.

In FY2012, total expenditures on official mail were $24.8 million. House official mail costs ($23.3 million) were 94% of the total, whereas Senate official mail costs ($1.5 million) were 6% of the total. In FY2011, total expenditures on official mail were $12.8 million. House official mail costs ($11.3 million) were 88% of the total, whereas Senate official mail costs ($1.5 million) were 12% of the total.

These expenditures continue an historical pattern of Congress spending less on official mail costs during non-election years than during election-years (Figure 3). However, analysis of monthly data on official mail costs indicates that, due to the structure of the fiscal year calendar, comparisons of election year and non-election year mailing data tend to overstate the effect of pre-election increases in mail costs, because they also capture the effect of a large spike in mail costs from December of the previous calendar year.

The analysis demonstrates that between FY2000 and FY2012, higher official mail costs in evennumbered fiscal years occurred for two reasons: a general increase in monthly mail costs prior to the pre-election prohibited period, and a significant spike in costs during December of oddnumbered years. Both increases were largely the result of an increase in the number of House Members sending mass mailings during those months.

Reform efforts during the past 25 years have reduced overall franking expenditures in both election and non-election years. Even-numbered-year franking expenditures have been reduced by almost 80% from $113.4 million in FY1988 to $24.8 million in FY2012, while odd-numberedyear franking expenditures have been reduced by over 85% from $89.5 million in FY1989 to $12.8 million in FY2011. House mail costs have decreased from a high of $77.9 million in FY1988 to $23.3 million in FY2012. The Senate has dramatically reduced its costs, from $43.6 million in FY1984 to $1.5 million in FY2012.

Date of Report: April 11, 2013
Number of Pages: 11
Order Number: RL34188
Price: $29.95

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