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Fake email controversy in New Orleans election

Today, it's run-off election day in New Orleans. Meanwhile, there's an email scandal brewing.

First, some background. As you probably know, the mayor's race is down to Mayor Ray Nagin and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu. There's also a city council race between Shelley Midura and incumbent Jay Batt.

According to Christopher Tidmore at PoliticsLA.com, a message was sent to the Jay Batt listserv that purported to be a note from Jay Batt -- urging a vote AGAINST mayoral candidate Landrieu. Strange, because Batt had endorsed Landrieu.

The sender didn't cover his tracks well enough - and it appears that the message contained a 'from' line with the name "Michael Beychok" -- a consultant for Batt opponent Shelley Midura. No surprise, the real Batt nearly immediately sent out an urgent alert clarifying things. Read all about it, including copies of the emails, here.

Ham-handed and idiotic attempts like this are bound to get the responsible consultant (and his candidate) into some deep doo-doo.

Here's the tougher question: Should campaigns have wide-open everybody-can-send listservs that make it possible for something like this to happen?

On the one hand, you expose your campaign to idiocy like this. On the other, there are certainly campaigns that have used wide-open listservs to great effect. (For example, the Maria Cantwell for US Senate campaign in Washington state in 2000. Her listserv was a great bottom-up early-warning system - as well as a grassroots organizing and motivational tool.)

These days, we're inclined to avoid wide-open listservs. You can get most of the benefit of such a system, with less of the risk, by having a campaign blog - with open comments. Your supporters can post notes and alert you to things, but you avoid the danger of the instant transmission of a negative (or fraudulent) comment to everyone of your supporters.

Update: Our pal Kate Kaye, over at ClickZ, has done some follow-up research on the story.