Watchdog agency sues postal service

SACRAMENTO - A state watchdog agency is suing the U.S. Postal Service for allegedly failing to cooperate with a state investigation.The state's Fair Political Practices Commission filed suit in federal court last week to compel the postal service to produce records demonstrating a violation of the California Political Reform Act. According to the lawsuit, the postal service is withholding records concerning a campaign "hit piece" sent without disclosing its source by a candidate in a California local election. The FPPC claims that without the information it is unable to enforce campaign ethics regulations that compel disclosure of the identity of the sender of campaign mailings. "We have placed an emphasis on targeting offenders of serious campaign ethics violations. In order to accomplish this objective, we need cooperative partners," said Ann Ravel, chair of the FPPC. "Despite our efforts to request this information, the USPC has not been forthcoming and has effectively shut down enforcement of these important state laws." The state's Political Reform Act requires that mass mailings related to a campaign contain the name of the candidate, street address and city of the candidate or committee that sent the mailer. In order to prove a violation, the FPPC must show that more than 200 pieces of mail were sent. In the past, the postal service has voluntarily provided the information, FPPC officials said. In a recent case, the postal service declined to provide information to the FPPC, citing the Freedom of Information Act. The postal service also claimed that informing the FPPC of whether a mailing using a bulk permit contained more or less than 200 pieces of mail would give out business "secrets" to their competitors and harm their business practices, FPPC officials said. "Their refusal to provide this simple information will result in shutting down the enforcement of all similar laws in every state so we feel compelled to take action," Ravel said.

********** Published: January 19, 2012 - Volume 10 - Issue 40