March 10, 2010 | The Associated Press | Original Article

House bans misleading census mailings

WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Wednesday that would ban misleading mailings designed to appear they're from the Census Bureau, following criticism that Republican groups were sending fundraising letters using the census name.

Under the bill, mailings marked "census" will be required to state the name and address of the sender, along with an unambiguous disclaimer that the survey was not affiliated with the federal government.

The legislation passed 416-0, after two Republicans who sit on the House panel overseeing the census, Rep. Darrell Issa of California and Jason Chaffetz of Utah, agreed to co-sponsor the measure. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., has said he intends to move forward with legislation in the Senate.

"With millions of census forms due to hit mailboxes within days and a multimillion advertising campaign meant to encourage completion and return of those forms, too many nongovernmental organizations are trying to piggyback on that brand awareness," said the bill's chief sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y.

Earlier this year, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Congressional Committee, the House GOP campaign arm, put out letters that were labeled "census document." The mailings made a plea for money along with a form asking voters to identify their political leanings and top issues.

The RNC appeal came in the name of GOP Chairman Michael Steele while the NRCC letter was from House GOP leader John Boehner of Ohio.

Both Republican groups on Wednesday said they would comply with the law as they had in the past. "The NRCC remains opposed to misleading mailings," said NRCC spokesman Paul Lindsay.

The Census Bureau has said it was concerned that misleading mailings would undermine response rates for the official census forms, which arrive in mailboxes next week. Lower mail response rates increase government costs, because the Census Bureau must send census-takers to every home that does not respond.