The nature of direct-mail fundraising is, by design, inherently hyperbolic. A group, candidate, or committee wants you to write a check, and in order to get you to open the envelope and pony up, they send you a letter that relies on a combination of fear, pressure, and threat of a looming disaster that can only be prevented through your generous donation.
But there are supposed to be some limits. Even the most heavy-handed, in-your-face fundraising appeals, sent by any self-respecting entity, need to avoid brazen deceptions or anything that might appear fraudulent.
The point, of course, is to scare the bejesus out of people who receive the mailing, making them believe they're receiving an unpaid bill. Slate reports today
that more than a few alarmed recipients have been confused by the deception.
There has been a rash of recent reports of people being confused—and, frankly, scared—when opening a version of that letter, including in California, Pennsylvania, Nebraska, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. In case the all-caps “NOTICE OF DELINQUENCY”—stamped on the envelope and the letter itself—doesn’t grab the recipient’s attention, there’s also an attached donation slip disguised somewhat convincingly as a bill, complete with a "PAST DUE" notice, circled in red, as well as text that reads, "*** IMMEDIATE RESPONSE REQUESTED***". The letter's signee? Republican National Chairman Reince Preibus.
There's generally an expectation that the RNC is going to push the envelope -- no pun intended -- when it comes to hyper-aggressive communications, but this seems more than a little sketchy, even by Republican National Committee standards.
In fact, the Slate piece
questions whether the misleading mailing is even legal, and notes that the U.S. Postal Inspection Service has indicated that an investigation is underway.
In the meantime, what Rachel said
on the air in late March continues to ring true:
"This is the kind of sleazy tactic, honestly, that elderly voters are especially are susceptible to, especially if you maybe can't read the fine print. "There's a special, extra-hot place in hell for anyone who tries to scam the elderly, let alone scare them, even if it's not for a B.S. political reason. This is for a B.S. political reason, though. This is my opinion but I think this is disgusting and think the Republican National Committee should stop doing it."
That was on March 25. By all appearances, they haven't stopped doing it.