Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) introduced a bill Tuesday to prevent deceptive uses of the word "census" on non-federal direct mail in response to a controversial fundraising letter sent out by the Republican National Committee earlier this month.
Issa, the ranking member of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, criticized the RNC for skirting federal law that prohibits the word "census" from appearing on the outside of nongovernmental mail without a clear disclaimer and return address.
The RNC mailer included the word "census" on a document that could be seen through a plastic window on the letter's envelope. Issa's bill would prohibit use of the word "census" in any way that is visible through the envelope or on a wrapper.
"The RNC's mailings plainly violate the spirit and intent of the law," Issa said in a statement. "Deceptive mailings must not be allowed to interfere with the constitutionally mandated Census. This legislation deserves bipartisan support, and I am working with Congressional Democrats to advance this bill as expeditiously as possible."
Issa's bill comes the day after top Democrats on the Oversight and Government Reform Committee asked the Postmaster General to investigate whether a mailer sent by the RNC on April 12 violated a new federal law aimed at preventing deceptive mailers from reaching census recipients.
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) noted in the letter that the Prevent Deceptive Census Look Alike Mailings Act, which was signed into law on April 7, was prompted by similar RNC fundraising letters sent to several states in January.
"Bold lettering saying Do Not Destroy' and Official Document' remains on the exterior envelope with, in much smaller print, a disclaimer that the mailing is not a U.S. Government document,'" Maloney and Clay wrote. "This is, at best, highly confusing to recipients of the mailing and subject to review by postal authorities."
RNC spokesman Doug Heye said the mailing was in full compliance with the new statute.
"Any confusion is the result of vague or unclear legislative language," Heye said. "If the Democrats have this much trouble writing a relatively simple bill, how can they credibly write a coherent bill on health care, financial regulatory reform or jobs creation that run hundreds of pages?"