Politics

Poliquin Again Amps Up Mailings Ahead of Election Deadline

Critics say it is an abuse of taxpayer dollars

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, is being accused of flooding his district with franked mail to improve his re-election prospects. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Republican Rep. Bruce Poliquin is flooding Maine's 2nd District with congressional mailers.

Poliquin’s mailers highlight his work on the GOP tax legislation passed last year, the opioid crisis, and increasing consequences for sexual harassment on Capitol Hill, the Portland Press Herald reported.

Poliquin is able to do so because of franking privileges which allow members of Congress to send mailers with a signature instead of a stamp.

But Democrats say it’s an abuse of taxpayer dollars.

“What bothers me is he’s using these letters to campaign at taxpayers’ expense,” said Democratic former Lewiston Mayor Larry Gilbert. 

Another woman said she received three letters in one day from Poliquin’s office last week.

But Poliquin press secretary Brendan Conley defended the practice.

“[T]here is absolutely no extra burden or cost to the taxpayer for franking — none,” he said.

Members are banned from sending franked mailers to constituents within 90 days of November elections or before their primaries.

An analysis by Roll Call in 2016 found Poliquin spent more than any other member, reporting $166,000 on franking and advertising in the third quarter of that year.

“As one of the most elderly and rural districts in the nation, many of our constituents primarily use hard copy mail,” Conley said. “Our office puts a premium on communicating with constituents, and does so without any extra burden to taxpayers whatsoever.”

Like in 2016, Poliquin is in a tough re-election race, this time against Democrat Jared Golden.

Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates Maine’s 2nd District as Lean Republican.

But House rules require mass mailings of more than 500 letters to be reviewed by the House Administration Committee and Conley said that shows they are not campaign material.

“Every single franking item is scrupulously examined by hand by full-time Democratic and Republican staffers — separately — to ensure they follow all strict rules and guidance,” he said.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.