THE STAMP COLLECTOR
By: Date: 08/20/2006
Ed Owens has been a stamp collector (or philatelist) for nearly 50 years, but his hobby has likely never served him as well as it did over the past several weeks, while he led a charge against the abuses of the US Postal Service by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
The issue was stamps and the use of customized stamps for political and fund-raising purposes, an issue first brought to our attention by USSA back in April.
It all began when Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation (WWC) President Jeff Christensen submitted a design to ZazzleStamps for a customized postage stamp to commemorate the conservation efforts of sportsmen. The stamp was to read “$1.7 Billion for Conservation Annually” at the top and “Sportsmen—America’s First Conservationists” at the bottom. ZazzleStamps reviewed the content and determined that it violated their Appropriate Use Guidelines by incorporating “material that is primarily partisan or political in nature.”
Owens, owner of REACT Consulting Group, is Government Relations Director for the Hunters Heritage Council, of which WWC is a member, so Christensen took the issue to him. His first reaction to ZazzleStamps’ rejection notice was to investigate the stamp designs previously approved and produced by ZazzleStamps. He made a disturbing discovery, which led him to send out a call for action to the hunting community, dog organizations, the Washington State Farm Bureau, NAIA and other concerned individuals and organizations.
Having alerted support and done his homework, he wrote the first of two letters to US Postmaster General John Potter. In this letter, dated August 11, 2006, Owens asserted:
"My experience in government relations supports my philatelic background from the perspective that if
. . . [WWC’s stamp design] is 'primarily partisan or political in nature' then the standard employed to reach this determination must be absolutely uniformly applied to any and all submissions. This letter is to advise that the stipulated standard has not been uniformly applied by ZazzleStamps; that four ZazzleStamps approved designs are being employed to raise funds for political uses in direct violation of USPS regulations; and, that an immediate halt to the sale of valid US postage to raise funds for political purposes must immediately occur in compliance with USPS regulations and in order to maintain the reputation and credibility of the US Postal Service."
The four designs approved by ZazzleStamps were submitted by HSUS. Owens pointed out that the designs were “readily accessible on the ZazzleStamps web site” and that each shared a common statement in the descriptive text—20% of the net sale of the images would go to support the programs of HSUS. Net sale was defined in these texts as “the difference between the sale value and the face value of the postage.”
The HSUS images depicted legislative issues, as could be verified by the Congressional Record. Owens, along with WWC President Jeff Christensen, amassed substantial evidence of HSUS violations of US postal regulations, not to mention evidence of ZazzleStamps’ inconsistent application of their own Appropriate Use Guidelines.
Owens wrote a second letter, dated August 13, 2006, after learning of nine more ZazzleStamps-approved images pertaining to the protection of the Michigan Mourning Dove. In this letter, he gave evidence linking these images (via the persons credited with the photography) to a political agenda regarding Mourning Dove hunting in the State of Michigan. He further established links between some of these persons’ websites to HSUS, as well as proving HSUS support of and direct involvement in “the political effort against Mourning Dove hunting in the State of Michigan.” His conclusion was firm and emphatic:
"Mr. Potter, I am left with no alternative but to again stipulate that regardless of how emotional an issue, or what personal opinions might be relative to public debate over an issue such as dove hunting, it is offensive that valid US Postage depicting a political position is being sold to finance a political agenda."
On August 17, 2006, the heroic efforts of Owens and his supporters were rewarded. ZazzleStamps wrote a response to Owens, acknowledging their errors and stating: “Over the past few weeks, we have concluded that the most prudent course of action is to remove the designs from our website, and to discontinue their sale as postage. We aim to have this solution fully executed by August 31, 2006.”
HSUS has made no admission of error or wrongdoing.
In his email to supporters, Owens wrote that ZazzleStamps is revising their stamp approval process to prevent future abuses. He reports:
There are two other companies offering personalized stamp products,” Owens continues, “and I am advised by both corporations they intend to ensure that their stamp image approval processes mirror the changes being enacted by Zazzle. I have already responded to ZazzleStamps, and will write Postmaster Potter . . . to thank all parties involved for the rapid response to the multiple violations of US Postal Service regulations carefully documented in my letters.
And thank you, Mr. Owens, for getting us up and over this hill!
SPORTSMEN - AMERICA'S FIRST CONSERVATIONISTS
Can a sportsman and conservationist exist in the same person? If anyone doubts it consider this:
An avid hunter and sportsman, Theodore Roosevelt was the first American president to recognize the need for a national policy on conservation. Working with conservationists such as Gifford Pinchot and John Muir (founder of the Sierra Club), he set aside more land for national parks and nature preserves than all of his predecessors combined - 194 million acres.
In a time when most Americans still believed that their country was a land of infinite resources, Roosevelt joined with other sportsmen, hunters and fishermen to further the burgeoning conservation movement.
Theodore Roosevelt is seen with his highly-decorated deer-skin hunting suit, and Tiffany-carved hunting knife and rifle. Photographed by George Grantham Baine in 1885, New York City. Public domain photo available from many sources.