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State watchdog group sues U.S. Postal Service over investigation

January 13, 2012 | 10:52 am

The state’s political watchdog group has filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Postal Service for refusing to provide records requested as part of an investigation into a mailer sent in an election for the Manhattan Beach Unified School District.

The Fair Political Practices Commission is investigating whether former school board member William Eisen violated campaign finance law by not disclosing that he was behind a mass mailer opposing his recall in November 2008. The probe is in response to a complaint received by the FPPC.

"Instead of properly identifying himself as the sender, [Eisen] falsely indicated that a taxpayers’ association and regional political club were responsible for the mailers," the lawsuit alleges, adding that Eisen "rented and controlled post office boxes and sent out the mailings using his bulk mail account" with the United States Postal Service.''

However, the postal service has refused to provide records sought by subpoena and the Freedom of Information Act aimed at confirming who is behind the mailer and whether it met the threshold for a mass mailing.

The Postal Service told investigators that the information would not be released because it fits exemptions for information of a commercial or financial nature that is privileged and confidential, according to the lawsuit.

“Despite our efforts to request this information, the USPS has not been forthcoming and has effectively shut down enforcement of these important state laws," Commission Chair Ann Ravel said in a statement.


Smartphoning campaign donations

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento