‘Tis the season for holiday cards!
While the franking privilege of Congress allows members to send constituent mail without a postal charge, holiday greetings are one thing that can’t be sent sans-stamp. Members of Congress can instead opt to use campaign funds to spread holiday cheer.
Cards can cost campaigns a pretty penny. In 2011, Republican Rep. Peter King of New York spent $8,264.43 on cards and $2,241.85 on mail during the holiday season.
In addition to a Christmas tree, menorah, crèche, or Santa Claus, congressional holiday mailings include disclaimers, as required by the Federal Election Commission. Even though the card may not advocate a political position or request funds, the FEC applies the same disclaimer rules that would apply to any campaign mailer:
If campaign committees send out 500 cards, they must disclose that they were paid for by the campaign.
Political action committees and parties must identify the full name of the committee, their contact information and the disclaimer that a candidate or a candidate’s committee did not authorize the mailing.