Fast and loose


Politicians often play fast and loose with permission and data. This can cause them all sorts of problems with email delivery at major ISPs. I really expect that politicians buy, sell, transfer, spindle, mutilate and fold data. If they can use it to further their goals, they will. And, many of the consumer protection and privacy laws don’t apply to political groups.
The news that Representative Bachman may have known that some of her mailing list was taken and used by others is a surprise even to me. I talked with a few ESP reps, though, and they told me that this was mostly par for the course and that they often have a lot of delivery and compliance issues with their political clients. Many have had to suspend or terminate political clients, and a couple people mentioned SBL listings.
This isn’t a problem with just one side of the political spectrum, it seems endemic in how the game is played.

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  • Not all political bulk email campaigns are alike. The practices you mention are common in politics, but there are campaigns that are cleaner than usual and campaigns that are the opposite.
    Spamhaus nailed one group of especially nasty political spambags last fall that ran a snowshoe spam operation for the 2012 Romney presidential campaign:
    Activate Direct wasn’t just spamming for Romney. I got spam for a number of other politicians, including a few Democrats, and as I recall even some non-profit organizations in California. I was a Romney supporter, but this suggests that Romney’s judgement about the people who ran critical parts of his campaign was lacking, to put it kindly. :/
    Prior to 2012, I can think of one really egregious example of national-scale political spam in the U.S. — the 2008 Ron Paul botnet. It was apparently run by Paul supporters, not the Paul campaign, but you never really know. In 2012, in contrast, the Paul campaign ran a really clean operation. They either never were behind the botnet in 2008, or learned their lesson.
    Meanwhile, the Obama campaign ran a fairly clean bulk email operation by political standards. They hit a few of my spamtraps and a few at blocklists and reputation services, and played fast and loose with opt-in. They didn’t run a botnet or hire snowshoe spammers, however. Even better, typoed subscriptions to their list tended to fall off the list after a month or two of inactivity. To me, that suggests that somebody who understands list management (either in-house or at their ESP Blue State Digital) took measures to ensure that they did not continue to send huge quantities of email for months to email addresses that showed no signs of interest or life.
    i hope that ESPs and (even more) politicians of all stripes are reading this blog and learn some lessons from it. 😉

By laura

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