U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston rebuts perk claim

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah

U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah

By Gordon Jackson

The Brunswick News

BRUNSWICK (MCT) — U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, is rebutting a report claiming he is taking advantage of a congressional perk he purportedly condemned in the past.

According to a report this month by The Huffington Post, an online newspaper owned by AOL that Republicans sometimes criticize for left-leaning spins on headlines, when Kingston first ran for Congress in 1992, he said franking — a congressional privilege of free postage for official correspondence to constituents — should be mostly abolished.

But since 2009, the Savannah congressman has spent more than $124,000 on mass mailing, according to the report by.

His most recent correspondence to constituents, in which he explained the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and what he was doing to address higher flood insurance rates, was mailed in January.

Kingston denied this week ever making the claim he opposed franking.

“I never ran to abolish franking,” he said. “Franking is any time I communicate with a constituent. To say I was going to abolish franking is not right.”

Kingston said he tries to operate his office as frugally as possible with staff salaries and other privileges given to him and other congressmen.

“I have returned $1.3 million to the federal government by holding down franking and staff pay,” he said.

Any mass mailings to constituents must be approved before they can be sent, he said.

Every congressional office receives an annual budget that includes money for mass mailings. They cannot be used to raise funds or to generate political support.

Critics say incumbents who take advantage of franking privileges have an unfair advantage because they can send what opponents term press releases, questionnaires and other correspondence under the guise of constituent services.

Kingston, who is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., said it’s not the first time he has been targeted by The Huffington Post.

“I don’t know what The Huffington Post has against me,” he said.