Tucked into coronavirus relief legislation passed unanimously by the Senate on Wednesday evening was a little-noticed provision that guarantees more taxpayer money will be spent in the coming months on radio, digital, and direct-mail ads promoting members of Congress ahead of their re-election contests.
Language in that legislation codifies a carve-out for official communications by senators and congressmen that, while not overtly political, serves to boost legislators’ profiles and hype their accomplishments with constituents.
Known as “franked” communications and paid for through official congressional office budgets, such mail pieces, digital ads, and broadcast spots are designed to keep constituents apprised of their representatives’ work. Franked mass communication is usually banned within three months of primary or general elections. But the House Administration Committee has the authority to waive that restriction if it feels official congressional communications can “address threats to life safety.”