The Washington Post

Franking ‘blackout’ begins, 90 days from Election Day

(Matt Rourke/Associated Press)

Wednesday marks the beginning of the general-election “franking blackout” that starts 90 days before Election Day. That’s the period under federal election law during which congressional offices can’t send out “franked” mass communications. Translation: lawmakers can’t send out unsolicited communications — like postcards or e-mails — to more than 499 people.

That’s partly to avoid giving incumbents an advantage over their challengers in the heat of the campaign season, particularly since the line between purely informational materials and campaign-tinged ones can be pretty thin.

Lawmakers are readying for the blackout: for example, Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), the Chairman of the House Administration Committee, Tuesday sent a reminder to folks who had been receiving his e-mail newsletter, warning them that unless they signed up to continue getting it, they’d be left in the dark.

How will we live without such oh-so-useful newsletters and other updates?

In a pinch, there’s always that hand-cranked AM radio to listen to...

Emily Heil is the co-author of the Reliable Source and previously helped pen the In the Loop column with Al Kamen.

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