POLITICS

Bill would give organized labor free access to CalPERS mailing list

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Sean Higgins

The Sacramento Bee reports that California assemblywoman Shirley Weber has introduced legislation that would give groups that represent retirees free access to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) mailing list. The legislation is sponsored by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees:

Assembly Bill 785 forbids them from using the CalPERS mailing information to send out political mailers, but recruiting brochures, benefit pamphlets and the like are in bounds.

Materials that pass muster would go to a direct-mail firm picked by CalPERS and the member organization.

The contracted company would use the list to address the mailers. It would then destroy the information to keep it from misuse.

The retiree associations would have to pay “any and all reasonable expenses of the mailing,” according to Weber’s bill, and wouldn’t have direct access to the mailing information itself. The bill doesn’t require the groups to pay for the data.

Similar lists purchased from companies would cost “thousands, if not tens of thousands, of dollars,” said Sacramento State marketing expert Dennis Tootelian, “and that’s for each time you’d use it.”

Those private mailing lists often contain errors, he said, whereas CalPERS’ data – the foundation for distributing pension checks and important notices to members – is highly accurate.

And sortable. Income, gender, age – CalPERS has all that member information much more.

“Whew,” Tootelian said Wednesday after thinking about it. “That’s an A+ mailing list at zero cost.”

The employee groups might even parlay the deal to make a few bucks.

Say the XYZ Retirees’ Association fires off a recruiting mailer that highlights cruise discounts or preferred insurance rates for its members. It could do that in exchange for a fee from the cruise line and the insurance company.

“What a great business deal,” Tootelian said. “The unions make the money and CalPERS gets nothing.”

As it happens, both Weber and AFSCME have experience in what can go wrong when you use an out-of-date mailing list. Last year, AFSCME reportedly sent out a mailer on behalf of then-candidate Weber to the wrong voter district.

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