Franking Blackout for all House Members - last day to send unsolicited mass communications
Title 39 U.S.C. Section 3210 (a)(6)(A) provides that a Member may not send mass mailings during the 90 days immediately preceding the date of any election (primary, general, special, or run off) in which the Member’s name will appear on the ballot as a candidate for election or re-election to any public office.
A mass mailing is defined as an unsolicited mailing of 500 or more pieces of substantially identical content - whether mailed singly or in bulk - over the course of a legislative year (January 3 of one year through January 2 of the following year).
Likewise, House Administration Regulations prohibit mass communications – regardless of media – 90 days immediately preceding the date of any election (primary, general, special, or run off) in which the Member’s name will appear on the ballot.
A mass communication is defined, consistent with the definition of a mass mailing, as any communication of substantially identical content to 500 or more individuals over the course of a legislative year, regardless of media.
Examples of prohibited mass communications and mass mailings include:
- Automated telephone (“robo”) calls
- E-communications distributed to non-subscribers
- Advertisements (radio, TV, internet, newspaper, etc.) of town hall meetings or of the personal appearance of the Member and/or the Member's employees at an official event
- Mass mailings, e.g., newsletters, meeting notices, newspaper inserts, surveys and questionnaires, etc.
- Posters, flyers, leaflets, handouts, etc.
- Video or audio communications for which a Member may incur expenses for production, distribution, and/or broadcast
The restrictions do not apply to:
- Advertisements for employment and internship opportunities in the Member’s congressional office, U.S. Military Academy Days, and An Artistic Discovery
- E-communications distributed to subscribers within the district the Member currently represents
- Mailings or communications which are in direct response, i.e., a solicited response, to inquiries or requests from the person to whom the response is directed
- Mass mailings or communications to Members of Congress, government officials (Federal, state, and/or local), and mailings of news releases to bona fide communications media outlets
- Updates to the Member’s official web site(s)
- Video teleconferencing services in support of official business
In addition to understanding the above stated regulations, it is imperative that each Member and his/her staff be knowledgeable of their state election laws and how they may apply to pre-election mailings and communications. Do not rely on vendors to be aware of these restrictions and when and how they apply to the distribution of your official mailings and communications.
For your convenience, please find attached a list of the 2012 congressional primary election dates and the (“blackout”) date on which the corresponding 90-day pre-election cutoff period begins. Since primary and blackout dates may change as a result of state actions, all updates pertaining to the 90-day blackout period will be posted on the Committee’s site.
If you have any questions regarding the pre-election mailing and communication restrictions, please do not hesitate to contact the Franking Commission (Democratic staff) at 202-225-9337.