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Cost of legislative franking

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The most expensive method of sending bulk mailings is to have something mailed to every home in a representative's district. However, legislators are able to target specific voters.

"It could be districtwide, or it could be anyone with a hunting or fishing license," he said as an example. "A lot of people do standard mailings that the caucus media people prepare for them, which have a common theme or look. Some of us did our own thing."

Bledsoe said he typically did one large mailing a year. Additionally, he would send an e-newsletter every two weeks.

"In the fall, as we looked at the end of the year, my staff would say, if we had it in the budget, but basically it was what was left over after paying salaries," he said. "If you're spending 30 percent of your budget on it, it's clearly something that you are calculating into your budget."

Because franking is a political tool that can be used on the taxpayer's dime, rather than money from a legislator's own campaign accounts, there are very specific rules on the content of franking materials and when they can be mailed. Both members of the Senate and House are required to follow the same guidelines.

Overall, any part of each member's annual budgeted office allotment may be used throughout the course of a year. However, mailings are restricted to locations inside a member's district. Further, there are several types of prohibited types of content. In general, any printing of personal or partisan material of any nature for a legislator is strictly prohibited.

Examples of prohibited material include political cartoons depicting recognizable political personalities and/or parties; personal reports on the family or family life of a legislator; articles by a legislator's spouse or legislative staff; holiday greetings, except a one line holiday greeting in the same type style and size as the text of the publication; references to past or future campaigns or elections; a thank you message regarding election to office; comments critical of an individual legislator or other individuals; solicitations of political support; position papers or articles by private organizations or people; local ballot issue explanations, except the exact wording of the proposal; newspaper clippings, posters or pictures that are personal or political; notifications or endorsements of products or services, except within booklets of a public service nature; campaign logos, slogans, websites, phone numbers and e-mails; printings in foreign languages; printing or mailing in combination with another legislator.

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