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Ken Magill

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Misplaced Attack Watch: Newt Isn't Remotely Alone


By Ken Magill

Okay, let’s get something straight. Newt Gingrich isn’t even close to the only politician sharing or selling email addresses and enabling spam.

Two weeks ago, ComputerWorld columnist Richi Jennings published a piece criticizing the Gingrich campaign for putting its email donor files up for rent. Then last week, email service provider Elite Email put out a press release essentially rehashing the same charges against the Gingrich campaign.

Political email is exempt under the Can Spam Act of 2003. News of any one American politician or political movement spamming or enabling spam is akin to a story about a plane not crashing.

Well, no kidding.

They’re all doing it. Ever since I signed up a dummy account to all the 2008 viable presidential candidates’ campaigns, that address has been spammed by every political movement under the sun.

Among the senders spamming that address are the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Nancy Pelosi, The Democratic Governors Association, Beau Biden, Rand Paul, The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, The Second Amendment Foundation, Americans for Limited Government, The Republican National Committee and AmeriPAC,

And you know what else? They coordinate their spamming campaigns.

Just last week, for example, the address received messages from The Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, The Second Amendment Foundation and AmeriPAC with the subject line “Food Crisis Alert,” all pitching MREs. For non-military veterans, MREs are Meals Ready to Eat, or emergency meals that require no refrigeration and have a years-long shelf life.

That multi-sourced campaign was one of many from both the right and the left to which that address has been subjected in the last four years.

Meanwhile, in their attacks on the Gingrich campaign, both Jennings and Elite Email jumped to a conclusion to which they had no right to jump. Check that. They had every right to jump to it. They were just wrong.

Both took issue with the following statement from the Gingrich camp’s privacy policy:

"We may obtain information about you from outside sources and add it to or combine it with the information we collect."

“This means that even if a donor did not supply their email address, the Gingrich campaign can use other personal information and perform an action known as ‘email appending’ to obtain an email address and piece together a complete record about the donor that they can ultimately sell,” wrote Elite Email in its press release.

Jennings’ column contained a similar charge.

Um, yes the Gingrich camp can use email appending services, just as anyone with a list of postal names and addresses can, but the content of its privacy policy doesn’t necessarily mean it will. There are all kinds of information available for appending—or overlaying, as it’s also known—such as demographic and geographic information.

Might the Gingrich campaign engage an email append service? Maybe, but its privacy policy isn’t an indication one way or the other.


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