The congressional franking privilege, from the 1770s, allows members of Congress to transmit mail matter under their signature without postage. Congress reimburses the U.S. Postal Service for the franked mail it handles.
So, all the mail we receive from anyone in Congress “was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense.” It began as a well-intentioned practice, meant to help with the distribution of information to constituents. But some in Congress are exploiting the practice for their reelection campaigns, including my very own congressman in West Virginia’s 2nd District.
I’ve gotten two mailers from Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.Va., in the past month. At first, they looked just like promotional campaign pieces. At second perusal, same. Go on, look at the last promotion piece you got from Mr. Mooney. Nice, scenic view of Seneca Rocks with his portrait inset. The text on the back basically touts money sent to 28 health centers across West Virginia. Good, but wasn’t this part of the CARES Act, which passed with big bipartisan support in Congress?
These communications from Mooney’s office cost taxpayers around $250,000 just for the past two years, according to the Office of the Clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives. Mr. Mooney’s campaign should cover the cost of those flyers, but no, he passes the expense along to you, me and our families.
Aren’t we already doing enough by paying his annual salary of $174,000 per year, subsidizing more than 70% of the cost of an excellent health plan, as well as paying his retirement — a lifelong pension benefit of $139,200, ad infinitum? All this while he piles up millions in corporate campaign cash from the likes of Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Proctor & Gamble and more.
So, just who does he represent? Mooney doesn’t feel like much of a representative to me, and we see very little federal money for our infrastructure flowing into West Virginia under his watch. I haven’t even seen him in Spencer, where I live, for a number of years. Many of his “drop visits” are unannounced, token photo ops at businesses.
He avoided doing in-person town hall meetings long before COVID-19 made them difficult. It seems like a way to dodge the general public’s questions. Every so often, his newsletter announces that he’s had a wonderful phone conference with constituents. I’ve never been invited to one personally.
Since Mr. Mooney is not from West Virginia, he might not be up on what we might like to see from our representatives. I remember legislators who were not afraid to mingle and talk with people like me. Former Gov. Bob Wise danced in our streets, and many other politicians, for better or for worse, made time to hang with the people. If Mooney’s afraid to get face to face with us, what does that say about his ability to represent us?
West Virginia deserves a representative who will show up — not just send us pointless campaign mailers at our own expense. That’s why I’m supporting Democrat Cathy Kunkel this November. Unlike Mooney, Cathy Kunkel has been traveling the district and talking with people like myself about the issues in our communities, as well as having worked in the community in West Virginia for years.
Cathy isn’t taking corporate money in her campaign, so she will represent us in D.C., not special interests. She demands a federal government that invests in our infrastructure again, instead of just giving handouts to Wall Street and the big banks. This is the kind of leadership we need, not someone who just sends endless mailers that waste our tax dollars while doing nothing to help everyday people. Her campaign slogan says it well: “For the many, not the few.”