Earlier versio nof the article misstated the number of people who signed an online petition created by ForestEthics. It was 28,900, not 289,000.
Efforts to Block Junk Mail Slowed
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Chris Pearson, a state legislator in Vermont, had a sense that the people were with him when he proposed a bill last November to allow residents to block junk mail.
He got media attention, radio interview requests and e-mails from constituents eager to stop the credit card offers, furniture catalogues and store fliers that increasingly clog their mailboxes.
Then came the pushback from the postmasters, who told Pearson and other lawmakers that "standard" mail, the post office's name for junk mail, has become the lifeblood of the U.S. Postal Service and that jobs depend on it.
"The post office and the business groups are pretty well-organized," said Pearson, whose bill remains in a committee and has not been scheduled for a vote.
Barred by law from lobbying, the Postal Service is nonetheless trying to make its case before a growing number of state legislatures that are weighing bills to create Do Not Mail registries, which are similar to the popular National Do Not Call Registry.
The agency has printed 3,000 "information packets" about the economic value of standard mail, with specific data for each of the 18 states that have considered a Do Not Mail Registry. It has dispatched postmasters to testify before legislative committees around the country.
"The Postal Service has come in and clobbered legislators," said Todd Paglia, executive director of ForestEthics, an environmental group that has collected 289,000 signatures on an online petition to Congress that calls for a National Do Not Mail Registry. "It's really a people-versus-special interest kind of battle."
The Postal Service is working closely with the Direct Marketing Association, the trade group that represents retailers and the printing industry, in its new campaign -- Mail Moves America -- which is designed to quash the Do Not Mail initiatives.
So far, their efforts appear effective. None of the states where Do Not Mail legislation has been introduced since 2007 has approved a law. And no similar legislation is pending in Congress.
Sean Sheehan of the Center for a New American Dream, a progressive group based in Takoma Park, said state efforts may precede national action, just as they did with the Do Not Call Registry.
"Federal legislators are more sensitive to the heavy lobbying of the paper industry, as well as the impact on the postal service, whereas a lot of state legislators are really more in tune with local needs," Sheehan said. "It's local governments that have to pay millions to truck that trash out to landfills."
So far in the 2008 campaign cycle, the Direct Marketing Association has made $141,877 in contributions to federal candidates, including $6,610 to Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), who chairs the subcommittee that oversees the Postal Service and does not face reelection until 2012.