GOP exploits the U.S. census

Republican National Committee mailers mimic the 2010 census.

âÄúWhat do you do when you receive a piece of mail that says âÄòDo Not Destroy, Official DocumentâÄô?âÄù St. Paul City Councilwoman Kathy Lantry asked herself after receiving her âÄú2010 Congressional District Census.âÄù âÄúCensusâÄù questions covered such topics as party affiliation, national defense and the performance of the president and Congress. The document revealed itself to be authorized by the Republican Party and included a solicitation for RNC funding. While such mailers are not uncommon or inherently problematic, the similarities between this letter and the actual census are cause for concern. The letter uses a capital âÄúCâÄù in census, just like the U.S. Census Bureau uses, and it includes a âÄúCensus Tracking Code.âÄù Dennis Johnson, regional director for the U.S. Census Bureau in Minnesota, says, âÄúSome organizations âĦ try to take advantage of the extra publicity surrounding the census.âÄù U.S. Census Bureau spokesman Michael Cook says he has received several complaints from voters who believed the letter was misleading. Cook says the agency is still deciding what legal steps to take, if any. In response to the lag in investigation concerning the mailers, Rep. Carolyn Maloney of New York, for one, is considering legislation that will explicitly prohibit census piggybacking in the future. The RNC, for its part, claims not to have deliberately misled the public. Regardless of their intent, these mailers pose an interesting question of ethics and free speech. If similarities to the census are as purposeful as they appear, they represent the deplorable partisan exploitation of a crucial nonpolitical process.