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Florida Candidate for Governor Spews Spam Everywhere

It appears that GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist is sending massive quantities of unsolicited email to Floridians - and then is failing to unsubscribe people who want off the list. How does this happen? See below.

Worst of all, the incident is getting him painted as a hypocrite. From the St. Petersburg Times:

As attorney general, Charlie Crist rails against spam e-mails.

"Spam is an annoying, intrusive form of e-mail that almost all of us receive but few of us want. Much of it is just clutter, but some of it can be downright offensive," the attorney general declared in a May press release heralding his efforts to fight unwanted e-mail.

But as a Republican candidate for governor, Crist is annoying Floridians himself by obtaining people's addresses and sending them unsolicited e-mails touting his gubernatorial candidacy and asking for campaign donations.

And they're failing to remove folks who want off the list - even Republicans:

The Crist campaign e-mails, they noted, prominently show people how to unsubscribe. That didn't work so well for Joe Spooner, a 41-year-old investment adviser from Brandon. He has no idea how the Crist campaign got his e-mail address, but repeatedly tried to unsubscribe.

After the fifth request to be removed, a frustrated Spooner fired off an e-mail reminding the Crist campaign how Crist touts his fight against spammers: "The irony and hypocrisy amazes me. Do I need to file a complaint with the Attorney General's office? Anybody have the number for the Fraud Hotline?" wrote Spooner, a Republican.

Of course, the campaign is hiding behind the exemption in the CAN-SPAM act that exempts political communications.

"It's not spam," insisted Arlene DiBenigno, Crist's political director. "It's political speech. We're not selling anything, we're not being deceptive. We love the First Amendment, and there's nothing more powerful than political speech."

Yes, yes, that's true - but why would you spend time and money sending emails to voters that don't want to get your communications? And worst of all, why would you fail to honor their request to get off the list?

Most likely, the Crist campaign fell victim to the temptation to buy one of those big lists from a vendor that claims to be able to match email addresses with lists of likely voters. Even if you believe that that's possible (how many Joe Smith's are there in the world?) - the fact remains that you're sending unsolicited email.

It may not be illegal under federal law, but you're still going to negatively impact your future ability to send email to people who do want to receive it. AOL is filtering 1.2 billion spams a day - they're not very tolerant of people who send it.

And if that doesn't convince you, try this on: Do you really want to be the next candidate with this headline? Do you really want to be the next campaign staffer to have to explain it to your candidate?

Remember the Golden Rule for the Internet:

Don't Send E-mail to People Who Won't Be Happy to Receive It.

SpamKings: Charlie Crist's lax email etiquette
Myopic Zeal: Anti-Spam Florida AG Crist Sends Spam
HearSay.com: Florida AG Crist uses state list to send unsolicited email
Tech & Marketing Law Blog: Is the Florida Attorney General a Spammer?

Previously on P&T:
How do you build your email list?
Don't creep people out
All about political email