A recent mailer in support of a dedicated tax for the East Baton Rouge Parish Council on Aging wrongly was sent out using a discounted postage rate meant only for nonprofits, according to the head of a group supporting the tax proposal. 

The mailer, which also features candidate endorsements, not only used the nonprofit postage discount, but also listed a return address at the Florida Boulevard location of the Council on Aging.

The Support Our Seniors political action committee that paid for the flier received a reduced bulk mail rate because of the Council on Aging's nonprofit status, said Rick Caballero, the PAC chairman.

A U.S. Postal Service customer ruling says political action committees that are separate and distinct from the agencies they represent "may not mail at the nonprofit rates."

"This is a mistake, there's no doubt about it," Caballero said. "The PAC paid for the mailer, the PAC paid for the postage, not the Council on Aging."

The Council on Aging has nonprofit status, but it receives taxpayer money through the city-parish's general fund. The COA is asking for a dedicated tax that would double the size of the agency's budget.

The Louisiana State Constitution bars agencies from using public funds "to urge any elector to vote for or against any candidate or proposition, or be appropriated to a candidate or political organization."

Along with supporting the dedicated tax -- urging "Vote yes! To feed seniors!" -- the mailer outlines the PAC's endorsements for local and national offices on Nov. 8 ballots, from Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton down to Metro Council candidates.

The mailer also refers readers to a website that indicates it is run by the Support Our Seniors PAC, but that too lists the Council on Aging's phone number and address.

Top stories in Baton Rouge in your inbox

Twice daily we'll send you the day's biggest headlines. Sign up today.

The Support Our Seniors PAC's campaign finance reports show that the Council on Aging has given $400 to the PAC over the past few months.

Council on Aging Executive Director Tasha Clark Amar acknowledged that the agency cut the check to the Support Our Seniors PAC, but she said none of the money given to the PAC was from taxpayers.

Records from the Council on Aging show eight of its employees pledged money through an "annual employee giving campaign" that says its contributions will support "direct services focusing on improving the independence, wellness and quality of life for the parish's aging community."

The employees earmarked their money to go toward the tax campaign and pledged between $5 and $25 a pay period for it. The receipts show the money was collected through payroll deductions.

"The public agency did not donate a dime to the PAC," Clark said. "Those are employee contributions. That's their personal money that we collect."

Clark referred all questions on the nonprofit postage on the mailers back to Caballero. But Caballero said it was people from the Council on Aging who had the fliers printed and who mistakenly told the printer to use their nonprofit postage rate.

He said the PAC paid 9.6 cents apiece for the mailers to go out and for their postage, but that they should have paid 12 cents apiece because they are a political action committee and not a nonprofit. Caballero said he is trying to get a count of how many of the fliers were mailed out, which may fall between 20,000 and 30,000, and that he plans to reimburse the postal service for the rest of the money.

"We got a discount through the PAC that is only applicable to the nonprofit," Caballero said.


Follow Andrea Gallo on Twitter, @aegallo.​