A political watchdog group accused the U.S. Postal Service of improperly blocking a freedom-of-information request seeking the source of negative campaign mailings in a California school board recall election.
In a lawsuit filed Thursday in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., the California Fair Political Practices Commission claimed the Postal Service improperly blocked its probe of William Eisen, a former member of the Manhattan Beach Unified School Board.
The commission, which investigates violations of the 1974 Political Reform Act and regulates campaign spending, was investigating whether Eisen violated the law by not revealing himself as the source of the campaign mailings.
Opposing his recall in a November 2008 election, Eisen “falsely indicated that a taxpayers’ association and regional political club were responsible for the mailers,” according to the commission’s complaint. He “rented and controlled post office boxes and sent out the mailings using his bulk mail account from the United States Postal Service,” according to the complaint.
The commission asked the Postal Service for details about the mailings to determine whether they violated the law. The Postal Service blocked those requests, according to the commission, which is asking the court to force it to produce the records.
“Their refusal to provide this simple information will result in shutting down the enforcement of all similar laws in every state so we feel compelled to take action,” Ann Ravel, the chair of the commission, said in an e-mailed statement.
Dave Partenheimer, a spokesman for the Postal Service, didn’t immediately return a call after business hours seeking comment on the suit.
Eisen didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.
The case is Fair Political Practices Commission v. U.S. Postal Service, 12-00093, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California (Sacramento).
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