TAMPA BAY, Florida - One day after the 10 News Investigators aired a story about the free mail privilege granted to members of Congress, U.S. Rep Connie Mack IV is acknowledging his mailers broke the rules and his vendor is apologizing for making a mistake.
Members of Congress are allowed to send out mass mailings on the taxpayer dime, called "franks," derivative of the Latin word for "free." But the rules state they can't be overly-political and they cannot go to residents outside the Congressmember's district. Last year, "franked" pieces cost taxpayers $31.1 million.
But Mack, a Republican from Southwest Florida, is running for Senate and his recent taxpayer-paid pieces tout his "Penny Plan," a cost-cutting approach that is integral to his Senatorial campaign. The pieces started landing in the mailboxes of voters around the state, violating the rule that prohibits recipients outside of Mack's district.
On Wednesday, Mack sent a letter to the Congressional Franking Commission acknowledging the "unintentional" mistake his private vendor took responsibility for. The cost of the mailers was also reimbursed to the U.S. Treasury.
But there are numerous indications Mack's mailers were much more politically-motivated than anything else.
See the attached .pdf file for the apology letters
The vendor that admitted the mistake, William McClintock Associates, is a "Republican Political Targeting Firm" that touts its campaign expertise. And the firm's letter to Mack apologized for "failing to follow your staff's instructions for the list to be used on the May 2012 newsletter." However, the mailers, obtained by the Tampa Bay Times, looked just like campaign pieces touting his "Penny Plan," an integral part of Mack's Senate campaign.
And when first contacted by the 10 News Investigators Wednesday, Mack's Congressional spokesperson, Lisa Griffin, said it was the first she had heard of the mistaken mailings. Griffin later said Mack's campaign office would handle the questions, which could violate the spirit of franking laws, if not the letter of them.
In 2011, Mack $74,904 on "franked" pieces, the 7th-lowest total of 25 Florida Congressmembers. But the stats for Mack in 2012 - since he declared his bid for Senate - are not yet available.
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