Lack of Postal Reform Leads to Blame Game

With time running out for Congress to approve a postal reform bill, some mailers are questioning whether the Direct Marketing Association—both the leadership and the members—failed to work as effectively as possible to improve the chances of the legislation being passed.

Last week Jerry Cerasale, senior vice president of government affairs for the DMA, told MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT that if S. 662 or H.R. 22 is not passed by Oct. 1, then it likely won’t be passed in this Congressional session. (See “A Month to Push for Postal Reform?” ) Cerasale also urged mailers to contact their elected representatives and ask them to support the legislation.

But a DMA member, speaking on condition of anonymity, contacted MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT after last week’s story ran and questioned the DMA’s approach: “Lobbying in Washington is obviously not adequate to get postal reform signed into law, so why hasn’t the DMA changed its tactics? It’s been 10 years [since the current iteration of postal reform legislation has been introduced]. Does the DMA have any credibility on this?”

“It’s actually been 11 years,” Cerasale told MULTICHANNEL MERCHANT in response. “It’s easier to block legislation than to get it passed, and postal reform affects a broad band of American industry. The problem was, in the beginning, the industry itself was not united in what it wanted. Postal reform hasn’t come earlier because there hasn’t been a consensus to get postal reform moving.”

In the past, Cerasale continued, the DMA and trade associations for other industries, such as the magazine industry, disagreed on major aspects of proposed reform bills. “But for the last three years, we’ve worked hard to have the same message,” he said, citing a united front with PostComm, the Parcel Shippers Association, the Magazine Publishers of America, and the Mail Order Association of America, among other groups. “We’ve managed to pull them altogether.”

That said, “there’s no doubt that we could do more,” Cerasale admitted. “You could always do more. We’ve done some grassroots meetings in Illinois, Maine, and Nebraska with key members to get postal reform done.”

And as part of what he called the DMA’s “grass tops” effort to reach legislators, Cerasale said that the DMA will hand-deliver any letter or fax from a direct marketing executive regarding postal legislation to the office of the senator or representative to whom it is addressed.

Some critics argue that this sort of effort is too little too late. “The DMA is in a unique position to bring mailers and legislators together across the country to build the necessary momentum for postal reform to be finalized,” said the DMA member quoted above. “So why haven’t they taken a more pragmatic approach and provided the logistics and leadership to bring their members into the fight?”

For one thing, doing so is highly complex, notes John Patneau, executive vice president for catalog sales for Montreal-based printer Quebecor World: “You’ve got 50 different states, each with their own senators and representatives. It requires a lot of coordination.”

Patneau also says that the DMA membership bears some of the responsibility for the lack of a more organized grassroots effort. “Has there been a coordinated effort among the members? No,” he says. “I wouldn’t lay [the lack of] postal reform all at the feet of the DMA.”

For the DMA’s online postal reform resource center, visit