Dean campaign says it spammed

The presidential hopeful's organization acknowledges it sent out unsolicited political e-mail messages, a black mark for a campaign praised for its tech savvy.

Declan McCullagh Former Senior Writer
Declan McCullagh is the chief political correspondent for CNET. You can e-mail him or follow him on Twitter as declanm. Declan previously was a reporter for Time and the Washington bureau chief for Wired and wrote the Taking Liberties section and Other People's Money column for CBS News' Web site.
Declan McCullagh
2 min read
Howard Dean's presidential campaign acknowledged on Monday that it had spammed an undisclosed number of people with unsolicited political advertisements.

The campaign said Dean, the former Democratic governor of Vermont, remained opposed to unsolicited bulk e-mail and blamed the spamming on two contractors who had promised to contact only people who had specifically requested to receive the advertisements.

"We recently contracted with two vendors who made assurances that their lists were opt-in only," the campaign said in an e-mail to CNET News.com. "On Tuesday, August 12th, Dean for America received notification from a supporter that spam was being sent. We terminated our relationship with both vendors immediately."

The Dean campaign's bulk e-mail, which was sent last week, was disclosed by the Spamvertized.org Web site, which tracks political spam. The e-mail message touted Dean's accomplishments and asked for political support and donations, saying: "We are going to win this nomination and defeat George W. Bush in 2004, but we need your help."

Last week's spamming has the potential to embarrass a presidential campaign that both the media and its own campaign staff has touted as particularly Internet-savvy. A Newsweek cover story last week said Dean "is revolutionizing political fund-raising with his clever cyberstumping," while Dan Gillmor, a columnist for the San Jose Mercury News, proclaimed that Dean and his staff "truly get the meaning of the Net."

This is not the first time the Dean campaign has been embroiled in a controversy over spam. The campaign's Texas affiliate apologized earlier this year for spamming, saying "from now on, only people who personally sign up for our e-mail lists, contribute money, volunteer or sign a petition will receive e-mails from Dean for Texas."

There are some signs that politicians see spam as a cheap and effective way to reach voters. For example, out of about a dozen bills introduced in Congress that promise to regulate commercial spam, not one attempts to restrict political e-mail messages.

In January, the campaign of Sen. Joseph Lieberman, another Democratic presidential hopeful, acknowledged it had spammed prospective voters. So have many other politicians. The Democratic Party has been caught spamming, as has Bill Jones, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor of California, and Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a Republican.

The Dean campaign did not immediately respond to questions about which e-mail contractors it hired, what kind of "opt-in" lists the contractors promised or how many persons' in-boxes were affected.