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OWENS CURTAILS HIS USE OF FRANKING PRIVILEGE

SHARE OWENS CURTAILS HIS USE OF FRANKING PRIVILEGE

After attacks last year for being among the House's top 10 users of its free-mail "franking privilege," Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah, used the perk less than most during 1992.

That's according to a study released last week by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, which said Utah's members of Congress spent $454,551 sending "mass mail" such as newsletters and town meeting notices at taxpayer expense in 1991 and 1992.In 1991, Owens ranked No. 9 in the 435-member House for his use of the frank, sending out $181,667 worth of mail - or spending 87 cents per address in his district.

He was one of only 11 who exceeded his $179,790 postal allowance that year, and he transferred office funds as allowed by rules to cover it. That brought stiff political attacks.

But in 1992, Owens ranked only No. 259 in the House. He spent only $48,533 on franked mail, or about 23 cents an address - about a fourth of his spending the year before.

"When he decided to run for the Senate, he cut way back on his mailings because he didn't want the implication that the mailings were for political purposes," said Kay Christensen, Owens' Utah chief of staff.

"He uses the mailings for appropriate purposes, such as contacting voters, sending out questionnaires, notifying about town meetings and doing what is necessary to represent the people," she said, noting he also voted to cut franked mailings.

Still, Owens' 1991 mailings were so big that even with the cutbacks in 1992, Owens ranked No. 81 of 435 in the House for his total 1991-92 franking. It came to $230,199 total, or $1.10 per address in his district.

Rep. Bill Orton ranked No. 206 of 435 for 1991-92, spending $136,595 total - or 73 cents per address. Rep. Jim Hansen, R-Utah, ranked a low 395 of 435, spending $46,232 during the two years - or 22 cents per address.

In the Senate, Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, ranked 57th of 100, spending $41,524 - or 7 cents per address. Retiring Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, spent no money at all on frank mass mail.

While the Senate voluntarily releases its franking figures every quarter, the National Taxpayers Union Foundation had to file a Freedom of Information Act request with the Post Office to obtain full House figures.