Government Relations

Reminder: Official Franked Mail and Detention of Mail Guideline — POM 491.523

On July 26, information in Postal Bulletin 22342 was published to highlight the difference between Official Elec­tion Mail™ and Political Mail. The article serves as a reminder of another product that will be entering into the mailstream during this time, Official Franked Mail, also ref­erenced as Congressional Mail. In the past, there were reports of the improper identification and handling of Offi­cial Franked Mail in the mailstream. The following is a reminder of how to identify and process Official Franked Mail.

Official Mail (Franked)

Franked Mail, also referenced as Congressional Mail, is defined as official mail sent without postage prepayment, which can be used only by members and members-elect of Congress, the Vice President, and other authorized individ­uals. Franked Mail is identified by the facsimile signature of the member of Congress in the upper right corner of the envelope or franked label, followed by “M.C.” standing for member of Congress, or “U.S.S.” for U.S. Senate.

Franked Mail Envelopes

Although not encouraged, it is permissible for congres­sional offices to secure their franked envelope to various other envelopes or packaging when placing items in the mailstream. Do not be surprised if you find such an item and do not return it to the congressional office. See below for an example of a franked mail envelope.

Official Franked Envelope

Franked mail can be sent as single piece or mass con­gressional mailings. Most mass congressional mailings are sent from Washington, DC. Members of Congress may, however, dispatch these mailings from Post Offices other than Washington, DC. Members of Congress occasionally enter mass mailings at local Post Offices outside Washing­ton, DC. Members or their vendors must submit a PS Form 3615, Mailing Permit Application and Customer Profile, to the entry Post Office™ when the first franked mass mailing is made there.

Note: Do not attach Tag 57, Political Campaign Mailing, to congressional mass mailings. This tag is used to identify Political Campaign Mail. Use Tag 11, Congressional Mail, “Postmaster — Open and Distribute” on all sacks or trays of congressional mail. This tag helps identify the franked congressional mailing as it moves through the mailstream.

Types of Franked Mailings

Mailings under the congressional frank include both individual piece mailings sent by First-Class Mail® and mass mailings. Mass mailings may be sent as First-Class Mail or Standard Mail®. Treat and handle all franked mail according to the class of mail and special service indicated on the outside of the mailpiece. Standard Mail franked mailings consist of newsletters, meeting notices, and other printed matter. The mailpieces may bear individual names and addresses or simplified addresses. While individual pieces are treated as Standard Mail, the overall mailing may be sent by Priority Mail® or Express Mail® drop ship­ment.

Franking Blackout Period

With the exception of individual piece mailings and those in response to a request, members of Congress are prohibited from sending franked mass mailings during the designated “Franking Blackout” period, which begins 90 days before Election Day. This year, the Franking Blackout period began August 8, 2012, and extends through Elec­tion Day, November 6, 2012.

What to Do If You Receive a Congressional Mass Mailing With Tag 57

If you receive a mass franked mailing with PS Tag 57 in your unit, please contact your supervisor or Business Mail Entry manager. If there are indications of abuse, local man­agement may escalate the issue by making a copy of the mailing and submitting a completed Issue Report to the District Election and Political Mail Coordinator.

Detention of Mail

Employees should be aware that Franked Mail is not to be detained. In 2009, the Postal Service revised the Postal Operations Manual (POM) 491.523 to give specific guide­lines about how to handle this mail in response to an inci­dent where a franked mailing was improperly detained. It is important that these guidelines are adhered to to ensure there are no delays when dealing with Franked (Congres­sional) Mail. With the exception of mail security (see the Administrative Support Manual 274), Franked Mail must be dispatched and delivered as addressed. If there are indica­tions of abuse of the franking privilege, this must be reported to the Pricing and Classification Service Center, who will refer the case to the Postal Inspection Service and Government Relations, Headquarters.