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Hackett blasts Carney, brochure

Republican congressional candidate Chris Hackett talks to reporters at a press conference on Tuesday.

FRED ADAMS/THE TIMES LEADER

DALLAS TWP. – Chris Hackett called a press conference Tuesday to detail what he described as Chris Carney’s “misuse of taxpayer dollars for his campaign.”

Instead, the Kingston Township Republican spent 20 minutes having a frank discussion about franking.

Franking is the practice of mailing informational brochures to constituents.

Hackett is challenging Carney, D-Dimock Township, for the 10th Congressional District seat.

Carney’s campaign and the Democrat Congressional Campaign Committee blasted the Hackett press conference, calling it “misleading” to the news media and the public.

“Chris Hackett has a long record of saying one thing and doing another. It’s only July and Pennsylvanians are already sick and tired of Hackett’s hypocrisy and misleading campaign practices,” said DCCC spokeswoman Carrie James.

Hackett, sitting in front of an oversized poster board depicting a color flier Carney mailed to constituents last week, called the mailing and others like it “a waste of taxpayers’ money.” He said the custom is legal but questioned the ethics of it.

Franking dates to the 18th century. A bi-partisan six-member panel in the House -- the Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards -- reviews all proposed mailings that are 500 pieces or larger. Fliers cannot be mailed out at taxpayer expense unless approved by the commission.

Hackett said Carney’s flier “is a thinly veiled campaign piece” and chided the commission for approving it.

Hackett said he would propose legislation requiring the mailings to clearly state the cost to print and mail them and would seek to end their use in campaign years. Franking laws prohibit mailings 90 days prior to primary and general elections.

“This is not a Democrat issue or a Republican issue. It’s a good government issue,” Hackett said.

The 70,000 glossy fliers Carney sent out last week detailed what he would do about rising gas prices.

The cost to print and mail the fliers was $14,000, according to April Beeman-Metwalli, Carney’s chief of staff. It was funded through Carney’s congressional budget.

Carney spent $91,379 in 2007 on constituent mailing, according to his year-end statement.

Beeman-Metwalli said the congressman views the mailings as a way to “be open and communicate with the people” he serves.

Facts on franking

The Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards reviews all franked mail. Rules include:

• Personal references, including the member’s name and the words “I,” “me” and “representative,” must average no more than eight per page;

• Members can use the terms “he,” “she” and “my” an unlimited number of times;

• Each photo must have a caption that describes an official action taking place;

• Mailers can’t make reference to an election or campaign;

• Each can make no more than two references to Democrats and Republicans, and no more than two references to President Bush;

• If a member is pictured alone, the photo can’t take up more than 6 percent of the page;

• Mailers can include up to two more photos of the member with other people, but the two photos together can’t exceed 20 percent of a page;

• Every piece of franked mail has to include this disclaimer: “This mailing was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense.”

Source – Republican Franking Reference Guide

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