Idaho 1st District GOP Congressman Russ Fulcher sent out a taxpayer-funded mailer described as an “Official Congressional Survey” to 120,000 Idaho residents, asking questions like, “Are you concerned with the House Majority’s push to bring socialist programs and policies to the United States?” The mailer generated lots of talk on social media, with people as far away from Fulcher’s 1st Congressional District as Pocatello and Wendell in eastern Idaho reporting having received it.
While the franking privilege lets members of Congress send mailings to their constituents in their districts at taxpayer expense — within certain rules — they’re not allowed to send them to residents of other districts. And Fulcher’s office acknowledged today that the mailing went to 19,000 addresses in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District, violating the franking rule. You can read my full story here at idahopress.com (subscription required), or pick up Friday's edition of the Idaho Press.
Idaho has just two congressional districts. The 1st District stretches from Owyhee County in the south in a narrow swath up the western edge of the state all the way north to the Canadian border. The 2nd District stretches from the Treasure Valley to the east, taking in all of eastern Idaho.
The Franking Commission, which operates under the U.S. Committee on House Administration, states on its website, “A Member is authorized to distribute a mass mailing to constituents in the congressional district the Member currently represents.” Other restrictions include refraining from sending taxpayer-funded mass mailings during the 90 days preceding any election in which the member is on the ballot; submitting an advisory opinion request to the Franking Commission for all unsolicited mass mailings; and including this statement in the mailing: "This mailing was prepared, published, and mailed at taxpayer expense." That statement does appear in Fulcher’s mailer, right under, “Public Document - Official Business.”
Fulcher’s communications director, Alexah Rogge, told the Idaho Statesman today that his mailer went to 19,000 addresses in Idaho’s 2nd Congressional District, violating the franking rule. Rogge blamed the violation on a third-party vendor, telling the Statesman, “The vendor has taken complete responsibility for this mistake and the vendor has reimbursed the taxpayer dollars that were associated with this error.” Rogge didn’t return calls and emails from the Idaho Press requesting comment.
Fulcher, a freshman, has been in office just nine months.
His mailer was headed, “OFFICIAL CONGRESSIONAL SURVEY. Your opinion matters! Please respond today.”
In addition to the question about “socialist programs and policies,” it included questions about abortion, immigration, and “the most pressing federal issues to you,” along with this question: “Do you believe that the government should be in charge of your healthcare?” Options for answers were “Yes,” “No,” and “Unsure,” the same options respondents were given on the question about socialism.
Fulcher also included a list of his office locations, two photos of himself, and a note that concluded, “My staff and I look forward to serving you. Please reach out with any questions or concerns you may have.”