One of the perks in Congress is the right of "franking" -- no, it has nothing to do with Barney Frank, tequila shots and a dark alley. It's the ancient right to send constituents heaps of unwanted glossy fliers plastered with your grinning face at taxpayer expense. Franking is grossly annoying in all forms, but Rep. David Rivera's critics say the embattled Republican crossed a line with his latest batch attacking President Obama's Medicare plan.
"When so many in Congress are talking about waste, sending out a flier like this that could have come from campaign accounts is egregious," says Christian Ulvert, a senior campaign advisor for Luis Garcia, the Democrat set to challenge Rivera next fall.
The fliers, which went to constituents around Rivera's South Dade and Collier County District, are mostly colorful pictures of seniors who look lifted from a Cialis ad.
The only text proclaims that "David Rivera is working to protect Medicare and preserve Social Security," and warns ominously that "the President's plan does nothing to protect Medicare. In fact, the President's plan cuts $500 billion from Medicare to pay for other programs."
Rivera's office promised to send Riptide a comment about the flier earlier this week, but never followed up.
Ulvert says paying for such a blatant campaign piece with tax dollars is an insult to voters.
"It's just over the top," he says. "It looks like a campaign flier, it smells like a campaign flier, it should have been paid for with campaign funds."
The idea of "franking" dates back to 1775, when Congress waived postage for its members so they could "inform" their constituents about what their government was up to. Maybe in the 18th Century the plan made sense, but with the web and TV, most Congressional members use franking these days to annoy constituents with pointless mailers.
Rules have tightened in the '70s and again in the '90s to prevent politicians from sending attack ads through franking, and a Congressional committee approved Rivera's piece before it was mailed to ensure it followed the rules.
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So Rivera's mailer may not be so much worse than most franking. (Democrat Debbie Wasserman-Schultz faced her own franking controversy earlier this year.)
But then again, most members of Congress aren't under multiple investigation for misspending party money and allegedly taking casino kickbacks at the same time that they're sending out borderline legal mailers like this.
Click through to see the full mailer.