The Republican consultant behind the RNC’s misleading fundraising mailers marked “Census” proudly touts the mailers on his firm’s website. And he’s dismissing the bipartisan outrage over the missives as “the ankle biting of the political process,” adding that the Virgin Mary “had to go to Bethlehem to be part of a census.”
The website for The Lukens Company, run by GOP consultant Walter Lukens and boasting a list of big-name clients, includes “Republican National Committee Census” as an example of the firm’s work. The mailer is said to be the “most successful prospecting package for [the] RNC,” and to have “generated hundreds of thousands of new donors to the RNC file.”
As TPMmuckraker reported yesterday, the RNC recently sent out a new round of the mailer even after Congress acted last month to ban such mailers. Lawmakers of both parties had expressed concern that the mailer could confuse some recipients and depress the response rate to the actual Census, which is currently in the field. Lukens told TPMmuckraker that he appreciates what Congress was trying to do in creating clarity, but he dismissed lawmakers’ concerns.
“We’re not in any way, shape, or form trying to call this the Census,” he said, arguing that “census” is not a proprietary term, and has been used in a range of contexts for centuries. “Jesus and Mary had to go to Bethlehem to be part of a census,” Lukens added, referring to the story from the Gospel of Luke that Mary and Joseph were ordered by the governor of Syria to travel to Bethlehem to be counted in a tax census.
“After 10 years of doing this thing,” Lukens continued, “I really don’t think there’s any confusion that people don’t know what this is.”
“This is the ankle biting of the political process,” Lukens added. “Everybody takes shots at little things that don’t matter.”
Lukens estimated to TPMmuckraker that his firm had sent out 100 million such mailers over the last decade. He said his firm had come up with the original idea around 2000, and despite some initial concerns, the RNC had ultimately green-lighted the concept. “One of the things that the RNC is very good about is letting creative people do their thing.”
The mailer’s apparent high rate of return suggests why Michael Steele and co. may be unwilling to stop using it. The House vote to ban such mailers was 416-0, with one Republican declaring of the mailers: “Nothing could be more wrong.” And just this morning, another Republican member, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who co-sponsored the bill, told The PlumLine’s Greg Sargent: “They’re trying to be deceptive, and it outrages me.” But the RNC has said, without elaboration, that its mailer is not covered under the new law. Congressional Democrats now are calling for an investigation by the Postmaster General of what they call the “deceptive tactic.”
Lukens said that after the law passed, members of his firm had spoken with the RNC about modifications to the mailer to ensure that it was compliant with the law.
Lukens did not offer figures about the mailer’s performance beyond what’s on his firm’s site. But he said that the firm had tested “4 or 5 iterations” of the current version of the mailer, and that the one in the field now — which sparked the latest round of outrage after we reported on it yesterday — received the best response. “Whatever is mailing currently is the most effective or we wouldn’t be mailing it.”
In addition to the RNC, Lukens has worked for GOP senators John Thune, Jim Bunning, and Olympia Snowe, as well as several state Republican parties, according to his firm’s site.