Republicans Use Deceptive Practices to Fundraise in Idaho

UPDATE 1/29: Damn I can't believe this. Check out this quote. "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.” Its from Politico no less. The Attorney General MUST take notice of this comment. If the state wants to assert itself, it should defend the citizens against this. They have "incredible targeting" fergodsake. The case is made.

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Last night, I first heard about this four page "census document" circulating the state but since Dan Popkey already wrote it up, I'll let him tell it.

Joan Lang is a 78-year-old Idaho native who says she has "never voted for a Republican in my life." Nevertheless, Lang received a fund-raising letter from the Republican National Committee that's being criticized for confusing citizens as the decennial census is conducted this year.

The mailing from RNC Chairman Michael Steele is billed as an "official 2010 CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT CENSUS" and came with "Census Tracking Code #A10PD25." In much smaller type, the survey says, "Commissioned by the Republican Party," and notes that the mailing was paid for by the RNC. It came in an envelope stamped "DO NOT DESTROY OFFICIAL DOCUMENT" and asking Lang to return it by Feb. 5.

"They're attempting to make people think they have to respond," said Lang, who spent 16 years in the Idaho Army National Guard, reaching the rank of sergeant first class. "Even the envelope looks official. Of course, what gave it away for me was when they started asking for money."

Popkey made inquiry with the Post Office of whether this violated the Deceptive Mail Prevention and Enforcement Act, and they said no "because it doesn't use the full name of the U.S. Census Bureau or the seal of a government agency."

But Idaho has its own laws applicable to these circumstances. The Idaho Consumer Protection Act provides that the "following ...deceptive acts or practices ... are hereby declared to be unlawful, where a person knows, or in the exercise of due care should know, that he has in the past, or is"...:

(2) Causing likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the source, sponsorship, approval, or certification of goods or services;

(3) Causing likelihood of confusion or of misunderstanding as to affiliation, connection, or association with, or certification by, another;

* * *

(17) Engaging in any act or practice which is otherwise misleading, false, or deceptive to the consumer;

(18) Engaging in any unconscionable method, act or practice in the conduct of trade or commerce, as provided in section 48-603C, Idaho Code....

Idaho Code section 48-603. Unconscionable methods include: "Whether the alleged violator knowingly or with reason to know, took advantage of a consumer reasonably unable to protect his interest because of physical infirmity, ignorance, illiteracy, inability to understand the language of the agreement or similar factor" or "Whether the sales conduct or pattern of sales conduct would outrage or offend the public conscience, as determined by the court." Idaho Code section 48-603C.

And while The Idaho Consumer Protection Act pertains mainly to trade and commercial practices, its prohibitions apply to these circumstances as well through operation of the Idaho Charitable Solicitation Act which states in relevant part:

It is unlawful for any person...to utilize any unfair, false, deceptive, misleading or unconscionable act or practice. In deciding whether an act or practice is unfair, false, deceptive, misleading or unconscionable within the meaning of this subsection, definitions, standards and interpretations relating thereto under the Idaho consumer protection act and regulations promulgated thereunder shall apply.

Idaho Code section 48-1203(1). "Person" is defined to include any legal entity and "solicitation" is defined as any written request for money for a "charitable organization" which includes:

Any person who is or who holds himself out to be established for any benevolent, educational, philanthropic, humane, scientific, patriotic, social welfare or advocacy, public health, environmental, civic, veteran or other eleemosynary purpose or for the benefit of law enforcement personnel, firefighters or other persons who protect the public safety, or any person who in any manner engages in a charitable solicitation.

Idaho Code section 48-1202(1)(b). I highlighted the obvious ones but others may apply, particularly "public safety" with the way Republicans fear monger by carrying on about national security.

Clearly Ms. Lang suffers no fools but she was deceived long enough to look the whole thing over, realize the deception and call bullshit. How many other Idahoans will succumb to the deception of a census document, particularly the elderly, when the ten year constitutionally mandated ritual is in the news daily? The Idaho legislature passed these laws to prevent exactly these predatory practices the RNC has blatantly and cynically utilized. The Idaho Attorney General is charged with protecting Idahoans from these practices but I'll betya they find a reason to avoid doing so. Federal preemption is a cop out with Idaho Republican legislators asserting our state's tenth amendment rights on a daily basis. They can start right here and do something real to protect Idahoans by initiating an immediate cease and desist order.

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Bravo, Sis...

... great post. Unfortunately, Attorney General Wasden is powerless to act against this egregious and deceptive letter until and unless Melaleuca informs him, via certified letter, that the A.G.'s office is allowed to bring to bear the full weight of the law against the Rethuglican scofflaws.

That oughtta happen around the same time as the third coming of Raptor Jesus. Your breath, hold it not.

beautiful follow-up, Sis

it's great to have lawyer friends (and family).

Blessings

and salutations. High praise indeed for doing something I do everyday. I am truly advantaged with y'all around.

I think local Republicans need to own this. But I thought they needed to own Larry Craig too and he still shows up with no repercussion. They're all frickin' hypocrites.

Interesting

I guess I agree that the AG won't do anything about this. However ... I have more respect for Wasden than most other Republican officials. He's capable of enforcing the law, even when doing so is contrary to his party's wishes.

I know there are examples of this. I wish I could remember what they are. CRS.

Heh -- hadn't seen CRS in a while

Can't Remember S**t. Thanks for the chuckle.

Where was Idaho's attorney general?

Bipartisan legislation is being passed unanimously in Congress banning these Republican mailings. Did it really take an act of congress to get this done?