“I am used to ignoring junk mail with URGENT or FINAL NOTICE written on it, but this fooled even me."


Republican Sen. Ted Cruz's reelection campaign appears to be soliciting campaign donations from Texas voters in letters disguised as phony court summons.​


Hundreds of thousands of Texas voters last week received the mailers asking for money on behalf of Cruz. The letters arrived in brown envelopes forebodingly labeled: “SUMMONS ENCLOSED - OPEN IMMEDIATELY." The mailers return address was “Official Travis County Summons.” 


An anonymous high-ranking campaign official ​confirmed to Newsweek that Cruz's team was behind the ploy. 


Although the enclosed letter was simply a donation form for the Cruz campaign, some political consultants and voters have complained that the envelope created the false impression that the government was levying a fee. 


One recipient, Sean Owen, expressed displeasure on Twitter after he said he received one of the letters on behalf of his grandmother. 

“I am used to ignoring junk mail with URGENT or FINAL NOTICE written on it, but this fooled even me for a moment, as it plainly wants us to think it's from our county government when it isn't,” Owen told Newsweek“That's different, that's over the line. It made me mad because my grandmother suffered from some dementia, and could easily have followed the urgent request inside to send money."


Owen said that he contacted his county to report the mailer and request an investigation. He said that the letter cemented his inclination not to vote for Cruz. 


The Federal Election Commission ​said Cruz's mailers did not constitute a campaign finance violation. But some observers, including Democratic Texas lawmaker Gene Wu, have suggested the letters broke Texas consumer-protection laws. 

Cruz has reason to resort to extraordinary measures. 


Beto O'Rourke, a three-term Texas congressman, has mounted an unexpectedly strong Democratic campaign to oust Cruz, who has was elected in 2012. Despite ruling out donations from political action committees or corporations, O'Rourke has nearly equalled Cruz's fundraising -- at around $23.3 million -- and trailed the incumbent by just a few points in recent polls.


Cruz has repeatedly ​lied about O'Rourke's policy positions, and his campaign has sought to ​paint the Democrat as some kind of a juvenile delinquent -- all apparently to no avail. 


Meanwhile Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, ​worried in a closed-door meeting with Republican donors earlier this month that Cruz could lose due to his famed unlikeability. 


Cruz has resorted to dirty tricks against a more charismatic opponent before. During the 2016 presidential primaries, his campaign sent Iowa voters a letter that read “VOTING VIOLATION” in red font. Below the warning was an explanation.


“You are receiving this election notice because of low expected voter turnout in your area,” it read. “Your individual voting history as well as your neighbors’ are public record. Their scores are published below, and many of them will see your score as well. CAUCUS ON MONDAY TO IMPROVE YOUR SCORE and please encourage your neighbors to caucus as well. A follow-up notice may be issued following Monday’s caucuses.”


An O'Rourke victory would be a boon to Democrats' ​long-shot hopes of winning control of the Senate. Their odds of taking control of the House have long looked good, and have ​improved of late. 


Adam Johnson is an editorial intern at Pluralist.

You can reach him on Twitter @4DAMDAVID