Free Mail

October 16, 1941

Report Outline
Possible Restriction of Free Mail
Development of Free Mail System
Present Laws Applying to Free Mail
Revenue Losses to Post Office Through Free Mail
Abuses of Free Mailing Privilege
Improper Delegation of the Franking Privilege
The Franking Privilege in Political Campiagns

Possible Restriction of Free Mail

Use of Franking Privilege by Private Groups

Disclosure that private individuals and organizations have made free use of envelopes franked by members of Congress to circulate speeches and other material opposing foreign policies of the Roosevelt administration, without payment of postage, may result in legislation imposing more effective restrictions on use of the congressional franking privilege. Public indignation over abuses of the free mail privilege brought to light within the last few weeks has been heightened by subsequent charges that some of the private persons and groups concerned have been serving interests outside the United States.

Acting on orders given by a secretary of Rep. Fish (R., N. Y.), a House of Representatives truck on September 19 picked up 20 mailbags full of sealed franked envelopes from the Washington office of Prescott Dennett, an official of the Islands for War Debts Committee. A few hours earlier, Dennett has received a subpoena directing him to appear with his books and papers before a District of Columbia grand jury investigating activities of German agents in the United States. The envelopes, which were unaddressed, bore the signatures of 16 members of the anti-interventionist bloc in Congress, and contained copies of speeches by Senator Nye (R., N. D.), Senator Reynolds (D., N. C), Charles A. Lindbergh, and others, reprinted from the Congressional Record. Twelve of the mailbags taken from Dennett's office were delivered to the Washington headquarters of the America First Committee, and eight were placed in a storage room in the House Office Building used by Rep. Fish. A District of Columbia court later ordered George Hill, Fish's secretary, to bring the eight mailbags stored in the House Office Building before the grand jury for examination.

George Sylvester Viereck, registered at the State Department as an agent of several German organizations in the United States, was arrested at New York City, October 8, following his indictment by the District of Columbia grand jury on charges of withholding from the State Department material facts concerning his activities. The grand jury accused Viereck of “aiding, abetting, and assisting Prescott Dennett and divers others in organizing and setting up a certain committee known as Make Europe Pay War Debts Committee.” This organization, once headed by the late Senator Lundeen (F.-L., Minn.), later changed its name to the Islands for War Debts Committee. Viereck was charged with carrying on propaganda activities by contributing large sums of money for the maintenance of the committee, in order to “disseminate and distribute by mail under congressional franking privilege and otherwise certain speeches and public addresses delivered on the floor of Congress and elsewhere by present and former members of both houses of the Congress…” Viereck pleaded not guilty and was released under $15,000 bail.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Postal Service
Oct. 09, 1987  Mail Service Changes
Dec. 07, 1984  Postal Service Problems
Dec. 05, 1975  Postal Reevaluation
Feb. 01, 1967  Postal Problems
Mar. 02, 1955  Mail Service, Costs, and Postage Rates
Jun. 01, 1950  Postal Deficit
Oct. 16, 1941  Free Mail
Aug. 02, 1929  The United States Postal Deficit
Investigations and Discipline
Postal Service