Fake census

Detail of RNC 'census' document sent to voters in the 5th Congressional District in 2019. — Pennsylvania Capital-Star File Photo

In the Philadelphia suburbs, a document that’s mocked up to look like the U.S. Census, but is really a clever fund-raising ploy by the Republican National Committee, is once again making the rounds.

The document started landing in mailboxes in Berks, Bucks and Montgomery counties, according to KYW-1060 AM, and the office of U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, who sent constituents an email warning them to be on the lookout for it.

A copy of the document, obtained by KYW, informs recipients that “You’ve been selected to represent voters in the 1st Congressional District.” That’s the seat held by GOP U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, whose Bucks County-based district is on the Democrats’ want list in 2020.

The census pitch asks for information on a host of issues, as well as demographic data about the recipient. It’s identical to a document that was sent last October to voters in the Delaware County-based 5th District, represented by Democratic Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon.

In an email blast to constituents, Dean, a Democratic member of the House Judiciary Committee, warned them not to be taken in by the official looking document, which concludes with a request for contributions.

While it’s not illegal, the U.S. Census Bureau can’t stop the RNC from sending out the mailers, Dean noted. The bureau does “not own the word census. Anyone can take a census — it just means they are taking a poll,” she wrote.

“I can’t stress enough the importance of having everyone included in the official 2020 U.S. Census,” Dean said. “It is disturbing to see an organization taking advantage of this important work, and causing confusion, and my office has partnered with the U.S. Census Bureau to help ensure they get the most accurate count possible — it’s an enormous impact on services, representation, and dollars coming to our district and to our state.”

It’s also important to note that this isn’t the first time that Republicans have used the “Census” tactic to pry personal information out of voters and part them with their money. Similar mailers were sent out in 2010 around the last federal count, Politico reported at the time. Voters elsewhere in the country also received the document last year, published reports indicated.

John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this article originally appeared.

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