Editorial: Jack Abramoff and Postal Rate Increases

Another postal rate increase arrived, but mailers didn’t seem to care much. Can everyone live with smaller, annual increases? Not many moved up their mail plans to beat the increase, though some said they want to improve their mail efficiencies and address better. The U.S. Postal Service is expected to file a request this spring for another rate increase to be implemented next year. It might be similar to this year’s average 5.4 percent increase, but I bet it will be higher.

Few industry pundits think Congress will come to the rescue and pass any type of reform legislation this year. Reform was probably dead even before the scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, which will preoccupy everyone’s time on Capitol Hill. But you never can outguess our nation’s lawmakers. Who expected the House to pass its reform bill last summer?

Speaking of Abramoff, it’s interesting to note the postal tie-in to this controversy: a few words buried in the 35th paragraph of his plea agreement (see story, page 1). “As one part of the same conduct … Abramoff and others sought Staffer A’s agreement to perform a series of official acts, including assisting in stopping legislation regarding internet gambling and opposing postal rate increases.” In exchange, Abramoff said he gave money through a nonprofit to the staff member’s wife in 2000 and 2001. Funny, but didn’t postal rates go up twice in 2001? And I don’t remember Congress passing any type of reform legislation around that time, either. Maybe we’ll hear more in the coming weeks since Abramoff has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors who are trying to determine whether he bought specific actions from lawmakers or their aides with campaign contributions and lavish gifts.

Neal Denton, executive director of the Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers, addressed the subject in the group’s newsletter last week. “We’ve read the charges against Abramoff and his plea agreement and can find few clues on what postal issues may have been involved,” Denton wrote. “Meanwhile, the postal community is all abuzz with the notion that our little corner of the world may be sucked into this juicy scandal. Until the facts are known, we’ll refrain from the party game rumors and remind everyone that NOBODY knows anything yet. However, as Abramoff begins his formal testimony in the coming weeks, members of the postal community will be paying close attention!”

We will be as well.

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