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September 24, 2018

Senator Sent “Official Summons” to Potential Donors

Filed under: Finance,Uncategorized — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:38 am

Residents in some Texas counties recently received a mailing in an official looking brown envelope that said “Summons Enclosed…Open Immediately.”

Cruz envelope

Who wouldn’t open that right away if it was in their mailbox? The first line of the return address had the name of the local county and indicated it was an official summons:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Official Summons

Inside was a standard solicitation to make a campaign contribution to Senator Ted Cruz for his re-election campaign. And his name was also in small type on the outside of the envelope.

Cruz inside mailer

A spokesperson for the Federal Election Commission told the New York Times that the mailers were not illegal, as “the F.E.C.’s regulations don’t speak to how candidates may choose to word particular solicitations to potential contributors.”

However, Texas state criminal law may have been violated:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Texas Penal Code – PENAL § 32.48 – Simulating Legal Process

(a) A person commits an offense if the person recklessly causes to be delivered to another any document that simulates a summons, [emphasis added] complaint, judgment, or other court process with the intent to:

(2) cause another to:

(B) take any action or refrain from taking any action in response to the document, in compliance with the document, or on the basis of the document.

(c) It is not a defense to prosecution under this section that the simulating document:

(2) purports to have been issued or authorized by a person or entity who did not have lawful authority to issue or authorize the document.

So, simulating a summons, even if the real sender is disclosed, is a misdemeanor in Texas.

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act also prohibits the sending of a solicitation that misrepresents or implies it was sent on behalf of a governmental entity. This law is probably not applicable because it relates to commercial enterprises.

And under United States Postal Service rules, government lookalike mailings, such as using brown envelopes requesting donations for political causes, are not allowed unless the envelope has an explicit disclosure that there is no governmental connection. Misuse of a federal agency’s name or official seal is usually necessary, however.

So what does the Cruz campaign say?

“…there were a few complaints that came not to us but through the local media or twitter,” a campaign spokesperson said. “Our mail efforts have been both effective and critical to identifying and engaging our supporters, and getting them involved in our campaign efforts to keep Texas strong.”

The aide also said that the campaign “believe(s) we are in full compliance legally.”

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15 Comments

  1. I’ll leave Texas law to Texans, but the “Ted Cruz for Senate 2018” in the return address is in the same font as the two lines above it, so I’m OK with it. I think you’re bring a bit selective in pointing out one part and ignoring that part.

    I might open it if I missed that, but I do read return addresses and immediately shred without opening most that have none and all that I’m not interested in, of which this would be one. My shredder loves unopened mail. I’ll admit to almost shredding replacement credit cards, however. Got to feel the envelope on the way to the beast.

    If I did open it, those boxes for donation amounts would flash like spotlights and the whole thing would be instant shredder food. Same goes for begging forms from various organizations I belong to — letters on various subjects up front with donation boxes on the following page. Gone in an instant without reading the letter.

    Comment by Robert Fiegel — September 24, 2018 @ 7:20 am
  2. Good for you. But you are obviously not who this “scam” summons is aimed at. Older seniors suffering from dementia think “ I can’t ignore this; I’ll be in trouble, i better send a check.” I know this from painful experience with my own mother, who was repeatedly scammed till we were able to protect her.

    Comment by Cassi Jensen — September 24, 2018 @ 10:24 am
  3. In many areas, not responding to a summons is a civil crime. Whether the return address lists Ted Cruz or Luke Skywalker, some people wouldn’t want to take the risk of disposing of a legitimate summons.

    What Ted Cruz’s campaign is doing is despicable, and should be a punishable offense. It’s embarrassing and shameful that Ted Cruz feels the need to get votes this way.

    Comment by Wayne — September 24, 2018 @ 8:36 am
  4. Cruz pulled this same crap when he was running in the presidential primary. It just makes him look damn childish and DESPERATE.

    Comment by Marty — September 24, 2018 @ 9:47 am
  5. The Word Summons here mainly used as a law term as a call or citation by authority to appear before a court or a judicial officer.

    It also does have a definition of a request, demand, or call to do something.

    Ted Cruz may be right here in his use of the word summons although I do not like it at all.

    Comment by Richard Ginn — September 24, 2018 @ 10:02 am
  6. My mother had developed Dementia before she died, and was repeatedly scammed, as she could not tell the difference between real charities and fake ones. Something like Ted Cruz’ deceptive letter would have sent her into a panic; which she would have solved by sending him money so she wouldn’t be “in trouble”. It’s cheap and unethical in my opinion, and mr. Cruz should know better!

    Comment by Cassi Jensen — September 24, 2018 @ 10:19 am
  7. I agree with Robert’s comment at the top. The return address clearly says “Ted Cruz for Senate 2018”. It isn’t unusual for fundraising solicitations to be designed to look like something they are not. You could find probably hundreds of slightly deceptive mailers this year from candidates of both parties across the country. I get mailers that try to look like they come from the Census Bureau. So what? Cruz’s mailer isn’t particularly remarkable.

    By the way, this story appears to come from a story in the Dallas Morning News (see https://www.dallasnews.com/news/watchdog/2018/09/17/annoying-ted-cruz-fake-summons-beto-orourkes-constant-texting-phone-calling ). The suggestion of illegality comes from a Democratic Texas lawmaker – not exactly a neutral consumer watchdog in a hotly contested Senate race. Edgar, let’s keep politics out of your fine websites mouseprint and consumerworld. In the future, I hope you will refrain from the appearance of carrying water for one political side or the other.

    Edgar replies: Richard, this is a consumer story, not a political story. Just as I spotlighted the same practice of sneaky debt collectors using government lookalike envelopes, I would do so whether a politician of any stripe tried the same tactic. See original story: https://www.mouseprint.org/2013/04/15/debt-collectors-masquerade-as-local-das-with-their-blessing/

    Comment by Richard — September 24, 2018 @ 10:54 am
  8. We have FAKE news now FAKE mail, who is surprised? Brought to us by the PWNC Politicians With No Conscience.
    I’m presuming the only method of “engaging our supporters” is a FAKE envelope cause the real supporters might miss a real beg for funds.

    Comment by Robert — September 24, 2018 @ 12:58 pm
  9. Seeing who it was from would have landed it straight into the garbage where it belongs.

    Comment by Gert Finkelhoffer — September 24, 2018 @ 2:34 pm
  10. Ted Cruz is desperate and running scared. Mail like this SHOULD be illegal because it definitely looks “legal” unless you’re alert to scams.

    Most of us are alert to the scams of Ted Cruz.

    Comment by MerryMarjie — September 24, 2018 @ 2:45 pm
  11. beware once you give one cent to any politician you will be besiged for life.

    my mother gave a few $ to the tepublicans and henceforth was put on every scum sucker politicians mailing lidt.

    she got mail from every republican candidate in the country.

    save me from getting impeached was one, save our country from Clintonwas another, help gray Davis was another.

    Banai brith nedds your money, the arab league needs your money.literally every piece of pond scum sends letters or calls.

    without your $1000 the democrats will take over and the world will end.

    she gets a dozen calls a day and lots from ted cruz even though she lives in connecticut not texas.

    the mailing list are bait and if the politicians are left to police themselves every senior innthe country will fork over their life savings to these slime buckets.

    Comment by Rich — September 24, 2018 @ 6:43 pm
  12. Here’s a handy tip for anyone who gets spam snailmail. When sorting your mail simply look at the indicia (post mark in the upper-right). If it says “First Class” examine the mail piece further. If it says “STD” or “Standard” you can safely pitch it without further review. Standard Mail has an average non-delivery rate of about 6% and is inexpensive to send. As such, a mailer will NEVER send you something even mildly important via Standard Mail. First Class is almost always delivered, much more expensive, and mailers use it to send you something you need to see. A real time-saver.

    Comment by Kevin Hisel — September 24, 2018 @ 10:08 pm
  13. If I receive unwanted ‘snail mail’, if it includes a postage free return envelope I tear up whatever was sent into little pieces & mail it back to them in their postage paid envelope. I don’t know what good it really does in the long run but it is a bit satisfying to tear it up & mail it back.

    Comment by Becci Boyd — September 25, 2018 @ 3:35 pm
  14. I didn’t see the “campaign” line since there are two “from” addresses shown, and the second one (which I saw first) just says “Senator Ted Cruz”, not “campaign”. It took me looking at the envelope three times after reading the comments to see that the word “campaign” was on the envelope.

    Also I tend to open anything that says “open immediately” regardless of where it’s from, unless it’s super obvious nothing is wrong. I can always throw it out later. Better safe than sorry.

    Comment by BZ — September 27, 2018 @ 10:22 am
  15. Becci Boyd, if Edgar can give me decent odds that your method might actually do some good, I’ll do it in a heartbeat! And the one piece I’d leave intact is the mailing address label just so they’d know who they might want to delete from their list. What say ye, Edgar?!

    Also, I have noticed a dramatic increase in what I call “guilt mail.” I’ve received not only the ubiquitous return address labels, but also note pads, calendars, cloth shopping bags, T-shirts, and various other items, all accompanied by requests for donations. These are NOT advertising samples, rather, they are unsolicited “gifts” with attempts to attach guilt strings. Seems to have blossomed in the last 6 months or so. Unfortunately, the clothing is seldom the correct size.

    Edgar replies: Anti-junk mail folks have long used that technique to teach a lesson to mailers that include return postage paid envelopes. I can’t say whether it is effective or not.

    Comment by Robert Fiegel — October 1, 2018 @ 11:21 am

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