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Wesley Clark: friend of spammers? really?

Over at MediaPost Communications, Bill McCloskey has been tracking how various email lists get passed around and sold - bringing light to one dark side of email marketing. How? Well, he generates thousands of unique email addresses and subscribes each one to one and only one website or email newsletter.

Turns out that supporters of retired General Wesley Clark, one-time presidential candidate, are now getting email come-ons from other unrelated organizations. One for example, is Billionaires for Bush (a satirical anti-Bush site). Another is CharlieRangel.org - the site from the congressman from New York.

Now, McCloskey's point of view is that no organization should ever sell, rent, lease, or give away a list of email addresses - and while I'm sympathetic to that point of view when it comes to for-profit entities, I'm not so sure that it applies to political campaigns.

After all, it's a very common thing for candidates to share their snail-mail lists of supporters with future campaigns that share something in common. After all, if Congressman Joe Blow retires and 100% supports his son, Joe Blow Jr., to take his seat - why shouldn't he be able to share his list of supporters? After all, presumably those supporters would value his endorsement of a successor... right?

An even more fuzzy situation: Joe Blow decides to jump from the House to the Senate. Joe Blow for Congress is disbanded (or put on hiatus) and a brand-new legal organization - Joe Blow for Senate - is created. Shouldn't it be OK for the House campaign to donate their list to the Senate campaign? I don't think a single JB supporter would be surprised - but it would be a technical violation of most boilerplate privacy statements.

My advice? Don't give in to the temptation to make full-throated promises that "we will never share your email address with another third party." Of course campaigns should disclose what they intend to do with the data they collect, but they shouldn't make promises they can't keep. Never say never.

Disagree? Post a comment. Let's hear it.