Postal Law and Legalities of Direct Mail Programs

Many of our clients use direct mail for fundraising, for grassroots advocacy, and in election campaigns. Because postage constitutes such a large portion of their budgets, their ability to mail at the nonprofit rates often is critical to their success, and even their survival.

We have unique experience in obtaining nonprofit postal permits and defending them. We often take on appeals of applications previously denied by the Postal Service, especially for Section 501(c)(4) organizations.

Our firm and its predecessor have won more U.S. Postal Service appeals and obtained more private letter rulings on behalf of its nonprofit clients than any other law firm. Because the Postal Service does not have a published reporting system for its letter rulings and administrative cases, our files of previous cases constitute an invaluable resource not available anywhere else.

A common example of one of our victories in defending a nonprofit postal permit occurred in the summer of 1999, when we won an administrative appeal to the U.S. Postal Service headquarters in Washington, D.C., that abated almost $100,000 in charges. The local post office had determined that our client, a public university, had violated the “travel, insurance, and finance” (“TIF”) rules in sending a mailing to advertise its Continuing Education Program. Our appeal successfully overturned deficiency rulings from both the local post offices and the rates and classification centers involved.

We also have been successful in obtaining nonprofit postal permits for use in ballot measure campaigns for organizations who have not yet even obtained federal tax exemption. These permits have saved our clients hundreds of thousands of dollars in postal costs.

Wewer & Lacy LLP is knowledgeable of the “cooperative mailing” regulations and has brought our experience to bear in dealing with the new “content” laws and regulations which significantly restrict what nonprofit organizations can mail. Our lawyers have developed content analysis techniques used for direct mail expenditure attributions, and pioneered the use of nonprofit permits for political slate card mailings. The co-founder of the firm was a professional consultant in political and advocacy direct mail before becoming an attorney, and works with our clients’ direct mail vendors to achieve the best possible direct mail packages within the confines of the often confusing postal regulations.

We have experience in negotiating directly with USPS headquarters for clients on postal rules affecting nonprofit organizations and election campaigns. In May of 2005, we represented the American Association of Political Consultants in drafting and negotiating with USPS executives and legal officials in Washington, D.C. the promulgation of USPS Customer Support Ruling 324, issued May 18, 2005, which establishes the conditions under which election and advocacy mailings qualify for the Standard (bulk) rate. The USPS had previously engaged in a rulemaking which threatened to reclassify all election and advocacy mailings containing personalized information (such as a reference to a political party, gender, or polling place) at the more expensive first class rates. As a direct result of our firm’s work, under CSR-324, election and advocacy mailers now have clear guidelines to continue to use personalized information in mailings and still maintain their lower, bulk class rates.

Our work on CSR-324 for the American Association of Political Consultants (“AAPC”) was recognized in March, 2006, when AAPC presented Jim Lacy their prestigious “Pollie” award for his legal work on this project.

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