West Virginia Republicans are accusing Democrats of using taxpayer-funded mail to boost their reelection chances and prevent the first GOP takeover of the House in more than 80 years.
House Democrats flooded constituents with more than 64,037 pieces of mail through April 30, the majority of which went to the party’s most active voters, according to an investigation by Republican party consultant Rob Cornelius that has become known as “Mailgate.”
Those mass mailings cost $15,000 between November 2013 and April 2014, about five times more than lawmakers’ postage fees the previous year. The eight members who spent the most money all face competitive primaries or general elections, according to a report by WCHS 8 Eyewitness News.
A majority of the mailing lists – in some cases, 95 percent – included Democrats who had voted in three or more of the last four elections, which Cornelius described as “a clear definition of a political mailing to extremely likely voters.”
“These guys were very clearly targeting Democrats specifically,” Cornelius said Monday. “There’s no way the election commission could sign off on this.”
To prove his theory, Cornelius cross-referenced hundreds of names on Democratic mailing lists with the state’s voter registration database. He obtained the mailing lists, which totaled about 12 pounds of documents, through a Freedom of Information request.
West Virginia Republicans, including state party chairman Conrad Lucas, believe the spike in state-funded communications is part of a frantic effort to retain decades of Democratic control of the House of Delegates. The Republican party, which elected 11 new members in 2012, now trails four seats in the 100-member House.
“There’s no question it was politically motivated.” Lucas told the West Virginia Charleston Gazette.
Several Democrats have defended the use of mailings as key ways to communicate with constituents and argued that the investigation is a Republican ploy.
“It’s absolutely political gamesmanship,” Del. Don Perdue (D) told the Gazette. “In my view, it is much ado about nothing, and I think the public will see it the same way.”