06/19/2012 06:47 pm ET

Franking Privilege Exploited By Tea Party Incumbents

Freshman GOP lawmakers have decried runaway government spending, but they're still willing to use their taxpayer-funded postage privileges to send mail to constituents.

Critics of the "franking privilege" argue that it helps keep incumbents in their seats at cost to the taxpayer, since lawmakers can use it to send election materials. Frankable items include correspondence, press releases and questionnaires.

Tea Party-aligned representatives have been vocal against this type of frivolous government spending. But now that they're in office during an election year, it seems their tune is starting to change, at least when it comes to postage.

According to the News Press, freshman GOP House members comprise eight of the top 10 and 18 of the top 25 lawmakers spending the most on franking: "Republicans Joe Heck of Nevada ($319,251), Bobby Schilling of Illinois ($293,021) and Scott DesJarlais of Tennessee ($282,385) topped the list."

And Rep. Frank Guinta (R-N.H.) and David McKinley (R-W. Va.) have both been called out for excessive franking. According to Roll Call, McKinley spent $312,000 and Guinta totaled $308,000 in the period between April 1, 2011 and March 31, 2012.

Faced with pressure from voters to curb excessive government spending, Congress has tried to reduce overall spending on franking while increasing transparency. According to a 2007 Congressional Research Service Report, Congress reduced franking costs 70 percent from 1988 to 2006, from $113.4 million to $34.3 million. House franking costs last year fell to an all-time low of $11.3 million.

This month, Democrats were able to force a floor vote to reduce franking by another 10 percent. Only one Republican voted for the measure.

Here are some of the newsletters GOP incumbents sent with their franking budgets:

GOP Franking