This man ate a booger.

Just in case anyone in Texas had somehow missed the news that Ted Cruz is an insufferable dick, his Senate campaign has come under fire -- yet again! -- for sending out a deceptive fundraising mailer that purports to be a "summons." It comes in a tan, government-looking envelope of the kind most people would assume is either official business or junk mail pretending to be official business, but this was an exceptionally sleazy example of the genre, with great big official-looking lettering reading "Summons Enclosed — Open Immediately" and a return address intended to look like it was sent by the Travis County government. Turns out that although Cruz's campaign has been pulling this shit since May -- no apologies, no change in the mailers -- the latest online outrage got the attention of a Texas lawmaker who passed a bill aimed at eliminating such misleading junk mail, and it could turn out that Cruz's campaign is breaking the law.

The latest example of the mailer to pop up was posted to Twitter by Sean Owen of Austin, a data scientist whose mother recently died. Here's that envelope; note the return address: "Official Travis County Summons, Voter Enrollment Campaign Division" -- an office that doesn't actually exist in Travis county government. Yes, yes, it finally says in the third line, "Ted Cruz for Senate 2018," which a recipient might notice after wondering why the county has issued a summons.

Fine, Owen probably wasn't going to vote for Cruz anyway, but as he told Law and Crime, it really pissed him off to think of his elderly mother possibly getting something like this:

"What made me mad was that I knew my grandmother faced some cognitive decline at the end of her life, and had she received it, could well have been confused," he said. "Of course we were also shocked that it was clearly trying to be seen as an official legal summons from the county."

"I was surprised at the tactic initially, because even if it's legal to pretend to send mail from the county, I'd be surprised if it's worth angering some of the campaign's base over the tactic. It seemed like a new extreme in pushy, deceptive campaign ads," Owen continued. "Of course when it occurred to me that my grandmother could have been deceived, it made me mad and I contacted their campaign, then took to Twitter."

Of course it's worth the risk of angering people. Ted Cruz is all about trolling. He.thinks it makes him look clever.

As Owen noted in a follow-up tweet, the actual form inside is a "quite normal campaign fundraising letter," although it still uses that "summons" language and asks for a quasi-legal-sounding "affirmation" that the donor is a conservative in good standing, complete with appropriately florid, if agrammatical, phrasing:

It's a remarkable achievement in the Age of Trump: a voluntary loyalty oath.

Wouldn't you know it, a Newsweek story about the Cruz Sleaze caught the attention of Texas state Rep Gene Wu, who tweeted,


This is violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act (DTPA).

I know, because I passed this law in 2015.

Here's the relevant statute for you legal beagles out there:

False, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices in the conduct of any trade or commerce are hereby declared unlawful and are subject to action by the consumer protection division [...]

[T]he term "false, misleading, or deceptive acts or practices" includes, but is not limited to, the following acts … delivering or distributing a solicitation in connection with a good or service that: (A) represents that the solicitation is sent on behalf of a government entity when it is not; or (B) resembles a governmental notice or form that represents or implies that a criminal penalty may be imposed if the recipient does not remit payment for the good or service[.]

The Cruz campaign has so far been fairly quiet on the mailer, although an unnamed campaign spokesperson told Newsweek that they

had only seen a few anecdotal complaints from confused people. Everyone else, the campaign said, knew it was a campaign mailer.

God, why are people such babies, expecting not to get fake "summonses" that turn out to be asks for donations? Where's your sense of humor, maaaan?

This isn't even the first time Cruz has been accused of sending out deceptive mailers that appear to be from a government entity; just before the 2016 Iowa caucuses, Cruz's presidential campaign sent out mailers accusing Iowans of having committed a "VOTING VIOLATION," complete with a "report card" giving them a failing grade at civic involvement.

You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area. Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors' are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday's caucuses.

The forms also said Iowa's government was watching the voter and their neighbors and was very disappointed in their poor performance:

Iowa's Secretary of State complained that while the mailers might technically be legal, they were seriously misleading, that there is "no such thing as an election violation related to frequency of voting," and that for heaven's sake, the state is definitely not giving anyone letter grades on their voting frequency.

Cruz, not surprisingly, was downright proud of himself, and said, "I will apologize to no one for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out and vote." He may as well have added, Also, I eat boogers. You can see me eat 'em on national TV. Yummy, yummy boogers.

A bit of additional poking around by the New Yorker determined that Cruz's campaign had based the mailer on research into how "social pressure" might motivate people, but then added to it some baldfaced lying: The supposed "public data" on voter participation appeared to be completely made up, with only three supposed "grades" possible, an "F," "D," or "C." So hey, DOUBLY shitty there.

Cruz's Senate campaign has so far given no indication it will drop the mailers or other sleazy tactics. We can hardly wait to see what original tactic Cruz's people will come up with next. Maybe a very official-looking "Law Enforcement Notice" warning people not to flash their brights at other cars with their hi-beams on, lest Beto O'Rourke kill them in a gang initiation ritual?

[Sean Owen on Twitter / Law and Crime / AP / Dallas Morning News / Newsweek / New Yorker]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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