A Republican National Committee fundraising mailer resembling a government document and titled "2010 Congressional District Census" has some Tennessee Democrats saying the tactic is deceptive.
"They're quite good at making these things look official," said Chip Forrester, chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party.
Rick Gorka, a spokesman for the RNC, said the document "clearly indicates" the mailer came from the Washington, D.C.-based organization. Information in a box on the back page states the document is "paid for by the Republican National Committee." A three-page cover letter from RNC Chairman Michael Steele states at the top of the first page that the effort is "commissioned by the Republican Party."
"The purpose of this is to gather Republican opinions from across the country and to raise a little bit of money," Mr. Gorka said last week.
The mailing, which comes in a white envelope marked "DO NOT DESTROY, OFFICIAL DOCUMENT," is labeled with an eight-digit "tracking code" and contains a four-page form with 36 questions on personal politics, domestic issues and national defense.
At the end of the questionnaire is a request for a donation between $25 and $500. Credit cards can be used to pay the contribution. Included is a checkbox asking recipients to "certify" that the answers "are my own" with a signature line beneath it. Another checkbox asks those filling out the mailer to send "$15 to help defray the cost of processing my Census document."
Saying the mailer "reeks of deceptive fundraising practices," Mr. Forrester said that request could confuse some recipients who might mistake it for a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau form.
Justin Wilkins, Tennessee director for Organizing for America, called the mailing "disappointing" and "vilifying, fearmongering rhetoric" for including questions such as one that asks if the Obama administration is "right in dramatically scaling back our nation's military."
The cover letter from Mr. Steele states the form is a fundraising document.
Some questions included in the RNC's "Congressional District Census":
* Do you generally identify yourself as a: conservative Republican, moderate Republican, liberal Republican, independent voter who leans Republican, Other.
* How much does it concern you that the Democrats have total control of the federal government?
* Do you believe the huge, costly Democrat-passed stimulus bill has been effective in creating jobs or stimulating America's economy?
* Do you trust the Obama administration to keep America's borders secure to stop the flow of illegal immigrants into our country?
"We will use the answers you provide to help us win the races for governor, U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress and other key campaigns all the way down the ballot," the letter states.
A version of the so-called census document posted online last year states the party hoped to include 6.2 million participants in the fundraising effort.
The RNC's census mailers have been popping up around the country since at least 2000, according to news reports.
An August Better Business Bureau report in Washington state warns that the mailer "seems to be taking advantage of that fact to try to get people to think this has something to do with an official Census of some kind."
Amy Morton, wife of Daryl Morton, 8th Congressional District chairman for the Georgia Democratic Party, placed a post on her blog in October about a mailer her husband received.
"Pretty deceptive, if you ask me," she wrote.