Congressmen long ago granted themselves the privilege of mailing items to constituents at taxpayers’ expense, a process called “franking.” Usually such a mailing amounts to a barely disguised plea for reelection, bragging about how much pork the congressman has brought home and listing services he offers to his constituents.
There are numerous rules governing the content of franked mailings, but one in particular has attracted attention lately: a ban on the use of the phrase “Merry Christmas.” A congressional staffer told the Washington Examiner’s Mark Tapscott that after he submitted a draft mailing to the House Franking Commission to determine whether it could be franked, the commission responded with a memo stating that the inclusion of “Merry Christmas” in an otherwise acceptable mailing is prohibited. In fact, no mention of any specific holiday is allowed — not Christmas, not Hanukkah, and not New Year’s Day.
Members of Congress are prohibited from franking “greetings, including holiday celebrations, condolences, and congratulations for personal distinctions (wedding anniversaries, birthdays, etc.),” according to the Members’ Congressional Handbook. The Franking Commission, however, went beyond that simple, commonsense ban on taxpayer reimbursement of purely personal greetings, stating in its memo: “You may make reference to the season as a whole using language along the lines of ‘Have a safe and happy holiday season.’ It may only be incidental to the piece rather than the primary purpose of the communication.”
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