Monday, January 25, 2010

GOP up to dirty tricks with "census" mailers

This is from The Politico:

Officials of both parties are sharply criticizing a fundraising mailing from Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele they say could be confused with official correspondence regarding this year’s census.

The fundraising letter comes in the form of a “survey,” a frequently used device for partisan fundraising, but this one has a twist: Calling itself the “Congressional District Census,” the letter comes in an envelope starkly printed with the words, “DO NOT DESTROY OFFICIAL DOCUMENT” and describes itself, on the outside of the envelope, as a “census document.”

“Strengthening our party for the 2010 elections is going to take a massive grass-roots effort all across America,” Steele writes in a letter that blends official-sounding language, partisan calls to arms, and requests for between $25 and $500. “That is why I have authorized a census to be conducted for every congressional district in the country.”

The mailing is a Republican Party standby, a source of contributions — and occasional complaints — for more than a decade. But the latest round comes in a year when the actual United States census is getting under way, and officials say they’re worried that the GOP will sow confusion. News outlets in Wyoming, New York, Tennessee, and Minnesota have printed complaints about the mailers, with the director of the Census Bureau's regional office in Kansas City, Dennis Johnson, criticizing the letter in the Pioneer Press.

"My biggest concern is that it might be confusing to some residents who get this and then get the real one in a couple of months," Johnson said.

In some ways, I'm not surprised that the GOP is sending out this "census" survey just before the main U.S. Census survey is mailed out. It is certainly a deceptive campaign that apparently does not violate the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act. The Politico reports that post office officials responded to a letter written by Democratic Reps. Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.) and Rep. William Lacy Clay (Mo.) complaining about this Republican census survey. The GOP survey does not include any reference to the U.S. Census Bureau, any symbols or trademarks by the U.S. government, and that the letterhead states that the mailing was commissioned by the Republican Party, and signed by GOP chairman Michael Steele.

But the real kicker is this quote from a Republican operative:

"Of course, duping people is the point. ... That's one of the reasons why it works so well,” said one Republican operative familiar with the program, who said it’s among the RNC’s most lucrative fundraising initiatives. “They will likely mail millions this year [with] incredible targeting.”

It is all about duping ignorant Americans into sending money to the Republican Party. And since it apparently works so well, the GOP will continue using fundraising campaign.

Update: Americablog has a copy of this GOP "census." I can easily see that this is a GOP fundraising gimmick. Then again, I wonder just how many Americans will end up falling for this crap?

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