Kansas City lawyer Dale Ingram found a bargain — and a mystery.
Earlier this month, Ingram was shopping at Cargo Largo, a discount store in Independence offering salvaged merchandise such as clothing, home goods and, in Ingram’s case, office supplies.
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“I was going through stacks of boxes of different things,” he recalled. “So I picked up these envelopes, and I looked at the return address and thought, ‘This is kind of odd.’”
Ingram had spotted one box of 500 business-letter envelopes stamped with the return address of Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, along with a clear warning: “Official Business.”
The carton’s side carried a “Senate Stationery Room” sticker and a bar code. But there was no hint of how or why the official business stationery of a U.S. senator ended up on the shelf of an Independence store.
“I thought, ‘How’s this being sold here?’ The taxpayers have probably paid for this once,” Ingram said.
The envelopes, which Ingram purchased for less than $5, did not carry Rubio’s signature, which would have allowed the user to mail the envelopes postage-free under the franking privilege.
But in the wrong hands, the return address alone presented an opportunity for mischief — an anonymous letter, for example, or a crude joke that could be attributed to Rubio, a rising star in the GOP who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate.
“In my evil mind — not being of that party — I was thinking I could probably send these out and create some mischief. And if not me, somebody else,” Ingram noted.
Turns out those envelopes should never have been sold, agreed Dee Pack, owner of Recovery Management Corp., which owns Cargo Largo.
“They should have been shredded,” he said.
But Pack had no explanation for how the envelopes made it to his store.
“We get products from many sources,” he said.
A reporter found no similar envelopes during a spot check of the store last week.
The Senate Ethics Committee oversees senators’ use of the congressional free-mailing privilege, but a spokesman referred questions about the envelopes to the office of the secretary of the Senate, which runs the stationery room. A spokeswoman in that office said it provides only blank stationery and Rubio’s office would be responsible for printing and using the envelopes.
Rubio’s office, after some research, said last week that the envelopes were part of a small shipment to the senator’s Tallahassee office.
“While other envelopes from that shipment are accounted for, we are working to determine how some were apparently separated,” said Rubio spokesman Alex Conant in an email. “While it’s not unheard of for things to get lost in transit, it’s something we take seriously.”
Ingram said he was glad his discovery did not appear to reveal a wider problem with lost stationery or purloined government property.
But he was also happy the envelopes hadn’t fallen into the wrong hands.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to do something, even of Rubio’s party, and then blame it on the other party,” he said. “Best to take them out of commerce.”