Editorial: Frank Fight

Posted July 28, 2009 at 4:27pm

About 20 Republican House Members have been blocked by Democrats from using their mail franking privileges to send constituents the chart we’ve reprinted below, and now they are calling the ruling “censorship.—

We come down with the Democrats on this one — but not for the reason they’re citing.

According to the rules on franked mail, which is sent out massively at taxpayer expense and once was the dominant method of communicating back home, “comments critical of policy or legislation should not be partisan, political or personalized.—

A glance at the chart — showing an incomprehensible health care maze drawn up by Republicans on the Joint Economic Committee — shows that it’s not meant to be understood, but shuddered at. That is, it’s patently political.

But that’s not why Democrats objected to the chart. In a memo forwarded to Republicans on the franking commission, Democrats argued that the chart was inaccurate and “misleading.— In response, Republicans have put together a lengthy justification based on specific clauses in the health bill working its way through the House.

We confess, we haven’t checked every line and box in the chart, but there’s reason to believe it’s fundamentally accurate.

In fact, a statement issued by Kyle Anderson, press director of the House Administration Committee, said Democrats would approve the chart if the typeface listing its sourcing were larger and its title was changed to the plan’s bill number instead of “Organizational Chart of the House Democrats’ Health Plan,— suggesting that the contents are basically correct.

But the chart is still basically political, not informational. And while it’s now possible to communicate with constituents using other devices — notably, the Internet — we think politically motivated criticism should be barred from expensive, taxpayer-funded mass mailings.

Anderson said that Democrats are still negotiating with Republicans on the chart, but GOP Members doubt there will be an agreement. We believe Republicans have every right to distribute the chart, but not at taxpayers’ expense.