By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON, Wis. — Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night may keep postal carriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. But partisan politics, now that may be another matter altogether.
An investigation has been launched into a Neenah postal carrier who allegedly dumped into a recycling bin hundreds of political advertisement mailers from the campaign of Mike Rorhkaste, Republican candidate for Wisconsin’s 55th Assembly District, Rorhkaste tells Wisconsin Reporter.
Neenah Postmaster Brian Smoot, who was alerted to the incident on Thursday, confirmed there is an ongoing investigation into the matter, and referred Wisconsin Reporter to the Office of the Inspector General for the U.S. Postal Service. OIG representatives there did not return several phone calls seeking comment.
“I am not allowed to comment because it is an active investigation,” Smoot said of accusations that the unidentified mail carrier mishandled the political literature.
Rorhkaste, a retired human resources executive, is running against Democrat Mark Westphal, an industrial electrician and president of the Fox Valley Area Labor Council AFL-CIO, in the race to replace outgoing state Rep. Dean Kaufert, R-Neenah, who left the Legislature to become mayor of Neenah.
Speaking to Wisconsin Reporter Sunday evening, Rorhkaste said he first learned of the incident last Thursday when a Neenah resident emailed him. The resident, whom Rorhkaste did not identify, had witnessed a postal carrier dumping a bunch of material into a recycling bin at an apartment complex, according to the email.
The resident checked the bin after the postal carrier left and found hundreds of political mailers from the campaigns of Rorhkaste, Glenn Grothman, a Republican state senator running for the open 6th Congressional District seat, as well as political messages from a special interest group in support of former state Rep. Roger Roth, a Republican who is running for Wisconsin 19th Senate District seat.
Rorhkaste said he called the U.S. Postal Service in Neenah, and within a half hour a supervisor responded to the scene.
“She took a number of pictures. She actually got into the dumpster,” Rorhkaste said.
The supervisor rounded up the mailers, and Smoot on Friday confirmed that the mailers had been delivered to their appointed rounds, according to Rorhkaste.
While he said he isn’t sure what the motive might have been, the Republican candidate described the alleged political mailer dump as “disappointing, disturbing.”
“You wouldn’t expect the post office to do that to anyone, regardless of party,” he said, adding that Smoot and the supervisor who responded were extremely apologetic and assured him they would investigate and deal with the situation appropriately.
The mailers were bound for a key “crossover precinct” in Neenah, which makes up nearly half of the55th Assembly District’s residents.
“I’m glad the postal service here took it seriously, and I’m glad we got the pieces mailed,” Rorhkaste said. “If that wasn’t brought to my attention, I never would have known.”
“What I was upset about is, I don’t want this to happen to anybody,” the candidate added. “This is a First Amendment right. It’s one of our nation’s cherished principles.”