With the U.S. Postal Service suffering such an evaporation of revenue due to email and other factors, it’s not surprising that its officials are doing all they can to accommodate business mailers. But a lawsuit filed against USPS by California’s political watchdog agency says some favors go too far. Torey Van Oot reports for the Sacramento Bee:
California’s political watchdog agency has delivered a federal lawsuit to the U.S. Postal Service in an ongoing dispute over mail records.
The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, stems from a Fair Political Practices Commission investigation into a campaign mailing sent during a 2008 local recall campaign.
But the outcome could have broader implications for the agency’s enforcement efforts as the 2012 campaigns ramp up.
“It’s going to be a huge issue,” said Gary Winuk, FPPC’s chief of enforcement.
The investigation in question concerns mail pieces sent during the 2008 recall of Manhattan Beach Unified school board member Bill Eisen. A sworn complaint submitted to the FPPC alleged that mail pieces Eisen produced opposing his own recall failed to disclose that he was the sender, instead attributing the pamphlets to a taxpayer association and local political groups.
The agency sought to obtain from the Postal Service records showing how many mail pieces were sent to determine whether the mailing was widespread enough to trigger the mandatory source disclosures.
Though the Postal Service has provided similar information in the past, according to the FPPC, the Postal Service denied the agency’s request. Attempts to appeal the decision were unsuccessful.
FPPC Chair Ann Ravel said in a statement that the agency felt compelled to take action out of concern that the Postal Service’s “refusal to provide this simple information will result in shutting down the enforcement of all similar laws in every state.”
“The Post Office’s unreasonable refusal to provide the information and bizarre use of FOIA (the Freedom of Information Act) to prevent the release of basic information prohibits the Commission from executing its mission,” she said in a statement.
“The Commission is left with no other choice but to bring a cause of action against the Post Office to compel disclosure.”
A spokesman for the Postal Service declined to comment on the lawsuit Friday.