Political Mailing Under Scrutiny

Quad Prompts Inquiry

Future candidates for political office will be warned about possible violations of federal postal regulations in mailing campaign literature to voters, a Cambridge election commissioner said last week.

Earlier this month, volunteers supporting Mayor Francis H. Duehay's reelection bid leafleted 1600 student mailboxes in the Radcliffe Quadrangle. After receiving student complaints, Currier House officials yanked nearly one fourth of the letters delivered.

Under federal law, "it is illegal to put anything in a post box that doesn't bear postage," said Lisa DeVincenzo, a spokesman for the Boston branch of the federal postal system. Such violations of postal regulations are subject to $300 fines, she said.

But Harvard officials said that student mailboxes at the Quad and other dorms built after 1970 are not federally controlled like mailboxes in the River houses, thereby absolving the campaigners of any wrongdoing.

Quad administrators who control what goes in and out of student mailboxes said candidates never have been permitted to stuff boxes with campaign literature.

"Our policy is not to allow anything but U.S. mail to be put in those mailboxes, unless something is addressed to a student or it comes from the house," said Brenda Chamberlain, assistant to the masters of Currier House.

"If we had known it was a political endorsement of any kind, we would not have let it go in," said Cabot House assistant Susan Livingston.

Mayor Duehay said his campaign workers received permission from officials in the three Quad house offices to distribute voter registration and election information. "I think it was an honest misunderstanding," Duehay said.

Although the Cambridge Election Commission has no jurisdiction over possible violations of postal regulations, Commissioner Peter Sturges '70 said he "will investigate the problem."

"I'd be more concerned about people taking things out of mailboxes than putting them in," Sturges said