Postal Service gets boost from election

Wendy Carpenter
The Upshot

At least someone likes junk mail.

The U.S. Postal Service, which is struggling with debt and low cash flow, has received a boost due to the tons of political mail being sent this election season, including pieces from Super PACs, which are willing to pay the highest postage rates, according to CNN.

"We do expect election mail and the current holiday mailing season to help us get through this month's low point in our cash flow," USPS spokesman David Partenheimer told CNN, while admitting that the "liquidity situation" for the USPS is still "serious."

The post office lost $5.1 billion in its 2011 fiscal year, after experiencing a 5.8 percent decline in revenue for first-class mail, according to the Washington Post. The Post goes on to say "earlier this year, it was forced to default on two payments due to the Treasury totaling $11.1 billion for future retiree health benefits because it lacked sufficient cash reserves."

Now the USPS appears to have found a reprieve, after candidates, special interest groups and political parties are using the service more than in previous elections to get their messages across to voters. Super PACs -- a political-action committee allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from corporations, unions, individuals and associations -- are spending more on postage because "they don't qualify for postal service discounts of about 8 cents to 12 cents apiece reserved for candidates and political parties," said CNN.

In another attempt to raise much-needed cash, the U.S. Postal Service announced this week that it will increase first-class postage rates by one cent, to 46 cents. The price increase will become effective on Jan. 27, and will include a 2.57 percent bump for all USPS services.

Democrats are spending more with the USPS than the Republicans -- $17.8 million compared with $10.2 million -- at this point, according to CNN, which quotes an analysis of campaign costs by the Center for Responsive Politics.

And there's still over three weeks remaining before the Nov. 6 election.