It took a few weeks, but statewide and national media have caught on to the Mailgate saga in the West Virginia House of Delegates, shaking out new details in the process.
As we’ve chronicled here and here, Democrat members of the West Virginia House of Delegates sent out mailings – on the advise of House Speaker Tim Miley (D-Harrison) – to Democrat likely voters. Normally only sending a few hundred letters in any given year, these Democrat Delegates sent out thousands of letters leading up to the primary elections last Tuesday.
When the story first broke in the Logan Banner, sources told the paper that Pam Van Horn, executive director of the West Virginia Democratic Legislative Council, had provided the mailing lists for the Delegates who sent out these mailings, specifically targeting PV 3 and PV 4 voters. These are voters who voted in the last three and four elections.
In the Charleston Gazette over the weekend, Del. Don Perdue (D-Wayne) confirmed the addresses came from Democratic Party leaders.
“Perdue, one of the GOP’s targets, sent 4,050 letters to constituents in Wayne County. The House Health Committee chairman said he requested a list of voters who cast ballots in the past three elections.”
The next day on West Virginia MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval, Perdue went on to say the addresses came from the DLC, a group affiliated with the state Democratic Party. Despite trying to act like an independent organization working to elect Democrats, they share the same address with the Democratic Party. On Talkline, Perdue tried excusing sending letters only to likely voters.
“Those are the people who are most engaged,” Perdue said. “They’re the ones that are most likely to pay attention and to be conversant enough with the issues to appreciate being delivered some communication on them.”
Kercheval use the last two days to dive further into this issue. Mailgate was also the topic of his daily commentary.
“The franking ruckus provides another wedge issue for West Virginia Republicans who are pushing to overtake the House of Delegates in November. Democrats currently hold a narrow 53-47 advantage.
A larger question, however, is given today’s technology where people can communicate instantly in multiple ways, it’s difficult to justify why taxpayers should continue to fund an archaic system that benefits the status quo.”
The news of Mailgate also spread to the editorial page of the Charleston Daily Mail, and the national pages of the Washington Post.
There is no question this is illegal, but Democrats keep trying to deflect, pointing to franking costs of U.S. Rep. David McKinley, West Virginia’s 1st District Republican. The problem is comparing franking privileges between the statehouse and Congress is like comparing apples to anything other than apples.
Members of Congress have hundreds of thousands of people in their districts, costing more money. Also, federal franking is prohibited three months before an election. Congressional mailings also can’t be target by voter. The minute the first letter left the House of Delegates, that lawmaker was guilty of electioneering.
Democrats really want this to go away, but it sounds like Mailgate is just starting to get interesting.