House Oversight panel calls on GOP to stop sending 'census' mailers

Mar 5, 2020
In The News

Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday demanded that the Republican National Committee (RNC) stop sending mailers labeled as a district "census" that could be misinterpreted as official census forms.

In a letter spearheaded by Oversight committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) to RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Democrats asked the RNC to "immediately" stop sending letters, social media posts and other communications that appear to resemble official Census Bureau documents.

“Distributing these materials as Census operations begin around the country could mislead Americans, reduce Census participation, and harm the accuracy of the Census," they wrote.

Oversight panel members asked that the RNC respond within a week by next Thursday.

“Simply put, the RNC should not invoke the official U.S. Census as a means to confuse and deceive recipients of the mailer into opening it, thinking they are complying with their civic duty," the lawmakers wrote.

The RNC has been sending mailersto people in California and other states labeled "2020 Congressional District Census" and are sent in envelopes reading: "Do Not Destroy. Official Document."

The documents include questions on political views, such as whether recipients support "President Trump's strong stance in demanding that our nation builds a border wall," while another asks "Do you support the Democrats' plan to enact Medicare for All?"

The questionnaire did include a note stating that it was a GOP document and "commissioned by the Republican Party." It also states that it was paid for by the RNC.

Republican officials last month said that the mailers were labeled as from the party and not an official census form.

But Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) told the Los Angeles Times last month that her office had been contacted by constituents who had elderly parents unsure about whether the RNC documents were official government forms.

Porter expressed concern that people would “toss their actual census envelope because they’ve already filled this one out.”

“We want everyone to be responding to the actual 2020 census,” Porter told the Times. “There is a real risk of harm here.”

The RNC said Thursday that it will be "adding language" to future mailers to make clear they are not official Census documents.

“This is a standard direct mail piece that has been utilized for decades. These mailers are fully compliant with the law, clearly marked as a fundraising solicitation from the Republican National Committee, and in no way resemble the official government census. We are adding language to future mailers to make it even more obvious,” a RNC spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill.

Oversight committee members noted in their letter that the RNC engaged in similar activities in 2010 by sending mailers labeled “Census Document Registered To” above the recipient's address and "official document" on the envelope.

Congress later enacted a law — authored by Maloney — that prevents the U.S. Postal Service from mailing items from a nongovernmental organization with the word "census" on the envelope or outside cover.

"By purporting to be an official document, the sponsors of these mailings deliberately reduce the effectiveness of the authentic Census — which costs taxpayers money. It’s not right, and this bill will help prevent that confusion," Maloney said in a statement at the time.