Let me quote my favorite writer—me, of course—to set this one up. From March 17, 2010
It was [Chairman of the Republican National Committee Michael Steele] who approved some sleazy direct mail hack’s clever idea to send potential GOP donors counterfeit census forms. Arriving in thick envelopes with “Do Not Destroy. Official Document” on the front (“See, it’s not a lie! It IS an official document, right? Just from a different official—you, Mr. Steele! Get it? …), and the imposing legend “Census Document Registered To: [ the name of the recipient]” stamped there as well (“It really is kind of a a census document, capiche, Mister Steele? So they can’t complain later—it’s just not the one they think it is! But they’ll open it every time! I love this mailing!”), the package included a four-page form complete with an eight figure “Census Tracking Code.” (“Nice touch, eh Mister Steele? Joey here thought that one up. It will really have them believing this, the suckers!”) But the questions would quickly begin striking anyone not half asleep as rather odd for the Census, with queries like,
“Do you traditionally vote in all elections?”
“Do you generally identify yourself as a: Conservative Republican, Moderate Republican, Liberal Republican, Independent Voter who leans Republican or Other?”
“How much does it concern you that the Democrats have total control of the federal government?”
“Do you think the record trillion-dollar deficit the Democrats are creating with their out-of-control spending is going to have disastrous consequences for our nation?”
Even the sleepy, drunk or stupid, however, should have figured out the scam when they read, “When finished answering your Census, please return it along with your generous contribution in the enclosed postage-paid envelope.”
Gotcha! So clever! So well-executed! Soooooo dishonest, deceitful, and wrong….Not only did the mailing aim to deceive, it also confused, and the Census Bureau expressed worries that the fraudulent mailings would undermine response rates for the official census forms, causing citizens to ignore or not fill out the real forms when they arrived later. Lower mail response rates will increase Census costs, because the Bureau must send census-takers to every home that does not respond.
The good news is that the incident reminded House members what it was like to agree on something, and they passed a unanimous, bi-partisan measure banning fake census fundraising appeals, because the fact that such mailings were obviously and putridly unethical wasn’t enough any more. Not with Michael Steel in charge of the Republican fundraising. His influence is strong, after all: doing his best Steele impression after the House vote, National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Paul Lindsay said, “The NRCC remains opposed to misleading mailings,” which is 1) a lie 2) an insulting lie 3) an embarrassingly obvious lie. It is opposed to them although it just sent out an intentionally misleading mailing of epic dimensions. The statement means one of these three things: “We are being controlled by Satan!”, “We are completely insane!”, or “We are lying our heads off!” One guess, and the first two don’t count.
But wait! There’s more!
The federal legislation, passed in the House of Representatives by a unanimous vote, to respond to this form of census mail fraud prohibited the use of the word “census” on any mailing that was actually a solicitation for funds:
Section (b) of H.R. 4621, the Prevent Deceptive Census Look Alike Mailings Act:
Matter Soliciting Information or Contribution of Funds—Section 3001(i) of title 39, United States Code, is amended—
(1) by inserting, in the matter preceding paragraph (1), `; or which bears the term `census’ on the envelope or outside cover or wrapper’ after `such matter by the Federal Government’
So shortly after this legislation took effect, the Republican National Committee prepared and mailed out new fundraising mailings also representing themselves to the casual observer as “census documents,” but instead of including the word “census” on the envelope or document cover, it was visible through a clear glassine window that revealed the words on the paper inside the envelope, thus exploiting a loophole in the law. By the time all of this was sorted out and the new fake census mailing pulled, Republicans has persuaded enough dupes to send money that the scam could be pronounced a success.
Now comes the news that the Republican National Committee is sending out another census scam as the next census looms. It comes with the same misleading envelope…
[Look! It uses the same glassine window trick!] and pretends to be a census document, though not very well…
The Twitter user who reported his mother being sent this nonsense—scammers prey on the elderly and vulnerable—said that he called the RNC and was told that the “census” was ordered by President Trump…
and that his mother risked legal action if she didn’t comply. (No, I wouldn’t be surprised based on some of my wife’s discussions with the RNC)
No, this one you can’t blame on Trump. This is just signature significance for the ethical orientation of the entire national Republican Party and its political fundraising consultants.