CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The chairman of the state Democratic Party says state Republican Party leaders are being “hypocrites” by claiming some state lawmakers are abusing their franking privileges — the free mailing services available to elected officials that are paid for with taxpayer money.
“If you’re going to try to get some political spin in election time and try to make someone look bad, the old saying my mama said (was), you don’t throw rocks or stones when you live in a glass house,” said Larry Puccio on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.” “Let’s talk about it all.”
From the beginning, the purpose of the franking practice has been about facilitating communications between elected officials and their constituents through the mail. The focus is usually on the work of the lawmakers — including any progress on introduced bills.
The GOP, though, is now alleging certain lawmakers targeted frequent Democratic voters with those constituent mailings prior to this year’s primary election and, because of that, crossed a line into campaign advertising.
Republicans leaders have said the most prolific mailers in the state House of Delegates were Ricky Moye (D-Raleigh) with 9,070 pieces of mail, David Walker (D-Clay) with 8,344 pieces, Jim Morgan (D-Cabell with 8,269 pieces and Justin Marcum (D-Mingo) with 7,364 pieces. In some cases, the constituent mailings sent jumped dramatically ahead of the election compared with previous years.
“It’s legal. It’s in place and you’re allowed to communicate with your constituents,” said Puccio of franking.
Republicans, he argued, use the free mailing privileges as well. He pointed to mailings from Second Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and First District Congressman David McKinley (R-W.Va.) which together, he said, sent about $1 million in constituent mailings prior to the 2012 election year.
“This isn’t where they want to go, believe me, and McKinley wouldn’t want to get on and talk about this, nor would Capito,” Puccio said.
At this point, no ethics complaints have been filed. Those with the GOP are currently working to compare the lists of those who received the mailings to a historical voter list from the Secretary of State’s office.