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Bush Can Be Blamed for a lot, But CAN SPAM?

10/14/14
 
By Ken Magill
 
And for the most dumbassed take on the CAN-SPAM Act—and there are a ton of dumbassed takes on CAN SPAM—look no further than a post by Jon Green on AmericaBlog blaming George Bush for exempting politicians from America’s anti-spam law.
 
“In 2003, facing pressure from consumer groups to do something to cut back on the amount of unwanted emails cluttering our inboxes, President Bush signed what remains the only law [He must mean in the U.S.] regulating commercial email: the CAN-SPAM Act,” Green wrote.
 
He then outlined some of the provisions under CAN SPAM and got them mostly right. 
 
He claimed, however, that sending to harvested email addresses is illegal under CAN SPAM. It’s not. It’s an aggravating factor if someone gets busted breaking one of the other provisions of the CAN-SPAM Act.
 
So we’ve already got evidence of a writer who can’t read the law he’s kvetching about. Soon, we find out he needs a civics lesson, as well.
 
“The FTC has ruled that when non-profit organizations send email that would otherwise be considered spam, the content is not considered commercial since, well, the organization is by definition not turning a profit,” Green wrote. “While you still can’t spoof your sending-address, you’ve got a lot more leeway when it comes to the subject and from lines, the content of your email and your adherence to opt-out rules. This means that the deluge of annoying and, at times, ethically-suspect emails you get from partisan organizations are 100% legal. Like this one:”
 
The piece then showcased a fundraising email from the National Republican Congressional Committee as an example of email offenses allowed under CAN SPAM.
 
“When an 18 year old kid sends something like that from their mom’s basement, but replaces the NRCC with a home refinancing plan, they go to prison, as was the case in the first of few prosecutions stemming from CAN-SPAM enforcement. But since the NRCC is registered as a tax-exempt nonprofit under section 527 of the tax code, they’re technically allowed to send more aggressive emails than companies that sell penis-enlargement products.
 
“And Allen West, Sarah Palin, John Bolton and other former GOP candidates are still allowed to take money from their email subscribers via a series of Benghazi mad libs with no verification that they to put the money to any reasonable use.”
 
But so can Democrat candidates and organizations. Why doesn’t he mention that? Let’s check his bio:
 
“Jon worked as a field organizer for [Democrat] Tom Perriello in 2010 and recently returned to AMERICAblog from the Obama campaign, where he was a Deputy Regional Field Director based in Hampton, Virginia.”
 
Oh.
 
Granted, AmericaBlog is political and its politics are progressive, but for Green to fail to mention that Democrats use email under the same supposedly lax oversight is disingenuous.
 
Then comes the compound howler.
 
“If you’re wondering why the only law we have designed to cut back on spam blatantly rejects the premise of what it’s supposed to do, you aren’t familiar with the Bush administration’s penchant for buffer policies. From No Child Left Behind to the Clear Skies Act, one of the particularly unsettling parts of Bush’s presidency was his ability to take legislative ideas that were bound to pass in the near future, and pass lousy versions of them before a Democrat could make it to the White House to pass a more serious version.
 
“Under the pretense of regulating spam, President Bush sanctioned it. And in an additional, subtle and brilliant rejection of federalism, the law supersedes any additional regulations enacted on the state level that don’t explicitly deal with fraud.”
 
Where to begin?
 
Bush didn’t write CAN SPAM. Congress did. Bush signed it.
 
Political organizations are also exempt from telemarketing rules. Can we blame Bush for that, too?
 
CAN SPAM was rightfully written to supersede a Byzantine maze of 28 state laws that threatened to render commercial email useless.
 
What is more, Congress has a long history of exempting itself from laws us lesser human beings must follow.
 
“In 1938, when the Fair Labor Standards Act established the minimum wage, the 40-hour workweek, and time and a half for overtime, Congress exempted itself from coverage of the law,” wrote labor lawyer Gerald Skoning in the Wall Street Journal last year. “As a result, for decades congressional employees were left without the protections afforded the rest of Americans working in private industry.”
 
Bush? Nope. No Bush to be found there.
 
“In 1964, with great fanfare, President Johnson signed the landmark Civil Rights Act, including Title VII, which for the first time protected all Americans from employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” Skoning continued. “But the law exempted Congress from its coverage, so thousands of staffers and other employees on the Hill were left with no equal-opportunity protection.”
 
No Bush there either.
 
And No Child Left Behind? It was co-sponsored by Democrat Sen. Edward Kennedy and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.
 
Both Bush supporters and critics don’t have to look very far to blame him for a lot of domestic- and foreign-policy blunders—overseeing astronomical growth in federal-deficit spending and the war in Iraq to pick two from opposite sides of the political spectrum.
 
But to blame Bush for CAN SPAM’s supposed shortcomings is nothing short of a ridiculous case of willful ignorance.
 
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