Down in Southwest Florida, where Republican Francis Rooney has held Florida’s District 19 U.S. Congressional seat since he defeated Democrat Robert Neeld in 2016, there is a race that seems to be getting tighter and tighter by the day.
Francis Rooney has a new challenger, and his name is David Holden. Holden seems to have closed the huge 31.8 point gap which Rooney defeated Neeld by in 2016. According to the Change Research poll, Holden only trails Rooney by 1 point (as of the middle of September). While Holden has asked Rooney to debate him on several occasions, Rooney has outright refused to even respond.
Now it appears as though Francis Rooney may have violated campaign rules in the run-up to the 2018 midterms. Holden’s staff reached out to Hill Reporter with their accusations.
“Francis Rooney won’t face the public or engage in a debate but he will improperly use taxpayer money to send out campaign literature,” said David Holden. “We have our policy differences but this is a direct campaign violation that needs to be dealt with swiftly and decisively.”
Holden accuses Rooney of spending taxpayer dollars to campaign for the upcoming election. While this, in and of itself, isn’t in conflict with any rules or regulations, the timing of the matter appears to be.
Federal ‘franking’ rules make it clear that a candidate is not permitted to send franked mail within 90 days of an election. A 70-year-old woman in Naples, Florida, named Wendy Tyler, has received mail from Rooney after this August 8 deadline. The mailing in question (seen below) speaks about legislation that Rooney introduced on September 10, 2018, meaning it is impossible for it to have been sent prior to August 8.
There are stipulations within the franking rules. One of those stipulations states that if less than 500 mailings were sent out, it would not equate to a campaign violation.
Hill Reporter reached out to Francis Rooney for comment but we did not receive a response. Rooney’s spokesman Chris Berardi did respond to the Naples Daily News though, telling them, “House offices are still able to send official mail, and this is official mail. “It doesn’t constitute a mass mailing.”
Regardless of this explanation, and whether or not officials will see it as an attempt to break a rule or simply as a legal means of getting around it, the fact remains that Rooney is using taxpayer dollars to send these mailers out. Whether or not they officially constitute campaign mail, will be up to others to decide, but without a doubt boasting about your record in congress can definitely be seen as one way to campaign for an election.