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Congress Loves Spam -- If It's From Congress 148

Posted by timothy
from the would-you-like-some-gravy-with-your-pork dept.
Makarand writes "According to this NY Times article (registration required), while Congressional members were busy passing the U.S. anti-spam law that will go into effect on January 1, they were also busy sending unsolicited e-mail to their constituents. This activity was aimed at growing the subscriber base receiving their political messages because these email lists are not subject to the normal 90-day blackout period before an election where members are forbidden to use taxpayer-supported Congressional mass communications. Consumer advocacy groups say that this policy may be unfair to the challengers because this loophole could be used by elected officials to communicate with voters right up to Election Day."
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Congress Loves Spam -- If It's From Congress

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  • Hah... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mOoZik (698544) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:33AM (#7821164) Homepage
    Yeah, and who thought they were stupid enought to put themselves equally under the law? They are politician's, for god's sake.

    • ...before someone points out the obvious, it's supposed to be politicians and not politician's. Ah, the curse of sleeplessness.

      • Let the bastards spam me. That's basically an almost 100% guarantee to make me vote against them
        • But what about everyone else they're spamming? Hopefully most people are smart enough to ignore these messages, just like any other spam, but that won't stop at least a small percentage from taking them seriously.
        • I feel the same way.

          Just remember to take action if you get one of these spam messages. Print the spam, write and sign a letter explaining that the representitive in question lost your votes and donations because of it, and send it to their office. The campaign managers know that for every letter written and sent in there are hundreds, possibly thousands, of people who feel exactly the same way but were too busy/lazy to write a letter about it. If they get enough letters they will stop sending spam.

          I

        • Problem is, the voting system provides no way of voting "against" someone. You can only vote "for". If all the candidates spam, all you can do is not vote, which sends them no message at all.
  • Full TEXT (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:34AM (#7821166)
    WASHINGTON, Dec. 27 -- Even as Congress was unanimously approving a law aimed at reducing the flow of junk e-mail, members were sending out hundreds of thousands of unsolicited messages to constituents.

    The spasm of activity is aimed at attracting voluntary subscribers to the lawmakers' e-mail lists, which would not be subject to House rules that normally impose a 90-day blackout before an election for taxpayer-supported Congressional mass communications.

    In September, the House Administration Committee voted, 5 to 3, along party lines to allow e-mail messages to the subscribers to be sent in the blackout period, but maintained the ban on free postal mail from House members to voters. The policy change affected only House rules and was not part of the junk e-mail legislation.

    At least 40 House members have bought or agreed to buy e-mail address lists from at least four vendors. The lists, which each have tens of thousands of addresses, are generally created by a process called e-mail appending, taking voter registration files from a member's district. The next step is to cross match them with large databases of names and e-mail addresses assembled by consumer data companies like Equifax, which has a database of more than 75 million e-mail addresses. E-mail addresses can usually be found for 10 percent to 20 percent of the voter file.

    Many members of Congress praise the new policy for allowing cheaper and more effective communications with constituents. But consumer advocacy groups say the policy may unfairly give an advantage to incumbents over challengers because it allows elected officials to use government resources to communicate with voters right up to Election Day. In addition, the consumer advocates say, sending bulk e-mail messages to constituents who have not agreed to receive it is essentially electronic junk mail, or spam.

    The ability to communicate with constituents at taxpayer expense, the franking privilege, is one of the most cherished and controversial perks of office. For 30 years, advocacy groups have lobbied and sued Congress to try to close loopholes and stop abuses of the privilege.

    Critics say the policy has created a significant new loophole.

    "The core value is that you don't want to leverage technology to increase incumbent advantage," said Celia Viggo Wexler, research director at Common Cause, a group that has sued to limit franking. "What is troubling is that essentially the House is saying, `O.K., you can communicate with the constituency up to an election, and we're not really going to check what you are saying with them.' The point is without that kind of oversight, it's ripe for abuse."

    Before the change, e-mail was subject to the same treatment as regular postal mail. Correspondence sent to more than 500 constituents had to obtain approval from the franking commission and was subject to a 90-day blackout before an election. But individual responses to citizens were not subject to the restrictions.

    Congressional officials said the old policy was too cumbersome.

    "Anything over 500 e-mails you had to submit that to the franking commission," said Brian Walsh, the Republican spokesman for the House Administration Committee. "There was going to be a delay of a couple of days to get approved. We didn't feel that was consistent with the technology that existed."

    The new policy says that lawmakers can freely send messages to voters who have agreed to subscribe to their e-mail lists. To build such lists, House members are sending huge amounts of bulk e-mail messages to their districts in the hope that some voters will subscribe.

    The unsolicited messages go out from Congressional offices as often as twice a month. The unsolicited messages, which have to stop 90 days before an election or a primary, are still subject to approval from the franking commission.

    "They are regulating commercial spam, and at the same time they are using the franking privilege to send unsolicited bulk communications which a
  • by arvindn (542080) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:36AM (#7821171) Homepage Journal
    Spammers operate on the principle that even though 99% (or thereabouts) of recipients recognize and hate spam, the remaining 1% of fools are enough to make their business model viable. However, would this work for political spam? I mean, if more than 50% of recipients react negatively to it, its bad for the sender, isn't it? (IANAA, so correct me if I'm missing something :-)
    • Unless you can win the election with less than 50% of the vote which happens often :)

      Also 99% of people may SAY they hate spam. However I would think that a political email (especially one not asking for funds at all) is probably likely to be read and/or make a positive influence on a higher number of people than something with a subject line like "XXX FREE TEEN PICS", etc.
    • by KjetilK (186133) <kjetil@noSpAm.kjernsmo.net> on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:52AM (#7821199) Homepage Journal
      I'd argue that 100% of recipients hate spam, but that there are enough biznissmen who think that spamming is profitable and can't be bothered about the fact that they're hated, to make spammers very wealthy. Spammers are making money not by selling the products that they spam for, but by selling spamming itself.

      But of course, I could be wrong, it's just that every time I have actually gotten in contact with those who bought spam services, they had actually been ripped off by the spammer, and they sold nothing.

      • "I'd argue that 100% of recipients hate spam"
        Not Really! There are people who buy from these businesses which use spam. Someone pays the spammers and businesses wouldn't be interested if they don't make money using spam. There are people in this world who think their jonny is too small and pay for bull crap. All I am saying is Spam, How much ever you hate it, makes money because some asshole uses it to buy stuff.
        • The great thing about advertising is that there is no viable and accurate way to measure return. Companies spend millions of dollars every year on advertising but they generally don't know whether or not it worked.

          The best they can do is poll random samples and ask people if they've seen the ad. And that doesn't work very well.
        • businesses wouldn't be interested if they don't make money using spam

          That's known as 'specious reasoning'. It makes sense as long as you don't actually think about it.

          obsimpsons quote:

          Lisa: "By that logic, I could say that this rock keeps tigers away."

          Homer: "Really, how does it work?"

          Lisa: "It doesn't. It's just a rock! But you don't see any tigers around, do you?"

          Homer: "I would like to buy your rock!"


          Here's what's really happening:

          Spammer finds moron, says "I can advertise your product for
    • In any given election, there are those who will definitely vote for one candidate, those who will definitely vote for another, and so on. Then there are the so-called undecided, which make up only a small fraction of the population. Sometimes, this fraction is too small to matter, other times the election is so close that literally a handful of undecided voters make all the difference.

      Of course, it doesn't make sense to spam those who vote against you, and it doesn't make sense to spam those who vote for

    • I was thinking the same thing and looked through the comments so I wouldn't be redundent. If I was getting spammed once a week by a politician with no opt-out list why the hell would I vote for him? This doesn't seem like an advantage at all.
  • by OffTheLip (636691) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:37AM (#7821173)
    SPAM is irritating but how effective is it really? Aside from the occasional well publicised ripoff who reads or responds to it? The US Congress must know something I don't.
    • by Slowping (63788) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @06:32AM (#7821263) Homepage Journal
      I think it's a calculating move by politicians. With the SPAM bill they reduce the noise surrounding their own spam. I know that my grandparents didn't mind SPAM when they first got on the internet, when it was only ~1-5 per day. They stopped reading SPAM when it exploded to 100's per day.

      If the SPAM bill helps cut that down to, say, 20 per day, politicians' own included, I think elderly people like my grandparents will start reading SPAM again. With the growing importance of the elderly voting population, I think SPAM can be quite important for these politicians.
    • Let's put it this way, MILLIONS have already enlarged their penises and every one of them is now making their penis functional (since it stopped working along with the enlargment) again thanks to viagra.
  • by Space cowboy (13680) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:39AM (#7821176) Journal
    Oh yeah, I remember: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you"...

    Reminds me indirectly of the Euro-MP who complained that people were contacting her with their views. They ought to have just sat back and been told what they wanted....

    Disgusted. Is it any wonder we regard politicians as full of (sh)it ?

    Simon.
    • Frankly (no pun), I really do not receive that much unsolicited junk mail from politicians as it is, so why should I fear that they will even begin to compete with the real spammers that send 100+ emails to my public email address?

      People have largely accepted their junk mailing privileges as it is. I am a bit more worried about irresponsible emails from so-called political organizations, with the possibility that like soft money, they will be playing by an entirely different set of rules and have little a
      • Re:Overreacting (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Alsee (515537)
        First of all they shouldn't be able commit abuses through e-mail that they are forbidden from commiting through normal mail. Elected officials are not permitted to abuse their office to run a private polical campaign, they are not permitted to stick the tax-payers with the bill for running that campaign.

        Secondly, because it is still SPAM.

        They are each sending millions of unsolicited junk E-mails with the costs almost entirely dumped on the receiving end. The actual dollar costs are split 50/50 between the
        • P.S. Don't think the new "CAN-SPAM" law is going to fix the spam problem. The Direct Marketing Association considers the law a victory for the spam business. Check this C-NET [story]...

          After reviewing and crafting a new AUP document for my boss at a Web hosting company, I'm beginning to appreciate how the CAN-SPAM law will get a handle on spam. Let me explain.

          There is a lot more to the CAN-SPAM law than just spam. The thing that caught my eye when I read the actual Act of Congress and the law refer

          • The CAN-SPAM law also wipes out all state spam laws.

            Basicly CAN-SPAM defines how to legally flod the planet with spam. There are about 25 million companies in the US. If each of them spammed you once with a valid and functional opt-out list you would be busy clicking almost SEVEN THOUSAND opt out links in seven thousand spams every day for the next ten years. Even one-tenth of one percent of that is still 70 spam per day per person (actually per e-mail account).

            Then of course spammers routinely reopen as
        • Um, it's not millions. It may be 10s of thousands, but let's not overstate the case. Every congressman is in posession of their own mail server that they can use to do this. The only benefit of the whole deal is that few people actually vote. Even less will vote (or vote for the non-spam candidate) if they get pissed at the spam.
  • Just wait till they find out and they'll put an "except for use by political parties" clause. ;)
  • Nothing New (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bloodmoon1 (604793) <be.hyperion@nosPam.gmail.com> on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:52AM (#7821198) Homepage Journal
    This shouldn't really come as to big of a suprise. Political acts have been exempted from major laws before. From the DoNotCall.gov FAQs [donotcall.gov]:

    The National Do Not Call Registry does not limit calls by political organizations, charities or telephone surveyors.

    Political spam isn't to much different from unsolicited political phone calls. And both would surely be of intrest to the politicians, as they seem to have exempted them from the laws. I find political phone calls equally, if not more annoying, then people asking me if I want to save $.13 a year on my long distance bills.
    • by tuxette (731067) * <tuxette@nOSPAM.gmail.com> on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:58AM (#7821210) Homepage Journal
      You just tell them "well, I was going to vote for your candidate, but since you called to pestered me, I'll vote for the opponent instead." *click*

      Political spam can be dealt with in a similar manner. "Promise" a vote and then on the day of the election write "Sucka. Did you really think I'd vote for a spammer?"

      At the same time, sign these politicians up on mailing lists etc. that guarantee lots and lots of spam. And forward their addresses to those kind Nigerians who have more than enough money to help finance political campaigns.

      • Personally, I've always prefered to sign them up for free hardcore gay porn, but I think I like your idea better. I knew someone would find a use for those wealthy Nigerian benefactor's of deposed kings someday. I love it. You just got a new fan.
      • During the municipal election in Ottawa, I got a call from Alex Cullen, a candidate for council. Well, I got an ADAD; couldn't even tell him off (maybe I could have if I waited until the end of the spiel, but...) OK, I was going to vote for Blatherwick anyway.

        The day before election day, I got an ADAD call from Blatherwick. Oh well, just gotta hold my nose and vote.
      • "You just tell them "well, I was going to vote for your candidate, but since you called to pestered me, I'll vote for the opponent instead." *click*"

        And then the candidates set up telemarketing campaigns that claim to be from their opponent's camp. In Louisiana's gubenatorial run-off last month, Republican Bobby Jindal all but accused Democrat (and governor-elect) Mary Blanco of doing just that.
      • by ubrayj02 (513476) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @02:04PM (#7822594) Homepage Journal
        Funny, I work for an elected official - and filtering the email is part of my job.

        Your switcheroo-vote trick, I can assure you, won't work unless you do it en-masse. If you are not a realt threat to a politician's job, then expect to be ignored with extreme prejudice (barring some sort of dire need, press related significance, or obvious wrong that needs righting).

        Regarding your idea to sign your elected official up on mailing list, etc.: it's been done. Oh god has it been done. The boss's public email address has been posted online for years, and we get everything - EVERYTHING - that you could imagine. THe funny thing is, none of it affects anyone else in the office except me. No one sees any of that spam, and it doesn't hurt our office in any real way. However, all that spam DOES hurt our constituency.

        You see, knucklehead, when we get three or four legitimate constituent emails a day for help, with legislative ideas, or honest & valid complaints about some branch of our sprawling gov't - we can't get to them! It takes me an hour every day of sitting in front of a computer screen deleting spam - and the result is that is an hour that constituents DON'T GET SERVED.

        All that spam does is take away from other constituents! You are screwing your neighbors out of the service they are entitled to. You subvert the ability an elected official has to serve the people he or she represents. In the long run, the little things that the OFfice of So-and-So does for people in a community don't make a huge political impact. But when you need a new medi-Care card, or the DMV is hassling you, or a city is using an ordinance improperly, or a million other things - think about what it takes for you to get help from people sworn to do so. Don't piss in the well you might be drinking from someday.

    • Political spam isn't top much different from unsolicited political phone calls.

      and we know how to deal [xs4all.nl] with unsolicited phone calls! :)
    • This exemption to political organizations could result in similar issues as to the protection that religions get. L Ron Hubbard created Scientology, as he was getting too much flak from the scientific community on his ideas about Dianetics (tm). Laws offered protection to religions, and so Scientology was born. Numerous other 'questionable' activities have been 'religionized' or 'charitized' because of this. So, what next? Could we have penis patch and viagra companies becoming political organizations?

      "P
    • Re:Nothing New (Score:3, Informative)

      by WCMI92 (592436)
      I do as well. I see it this way...

      Politicians shouldn't be trying to influence me. I should be influencing THEM. But in the "nanny state" we are becoming, more and more people, unfortunately, have the misguided idea that it's the government's (and hence, the politician's) job to TAKE CARE OF US...

      Let them run ads and put up signs at election time, as that's stuff I can CHOOSE to eyeball or listen to. But they don't need to be calling me or spamming me. THAT, to me is a government invasion of my privac
  • Sign Me Up! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by qw(name) (718245) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @05:54AM (#7821202) Journal
    I guess when the first email arrives from my representative or senator I will start using their email address when signing up for free offers and sweepstakes. That should give them lots of input from their constituents.

    Following their example: it's ok as long as nobody says it's not.
  • I think spammers are going to start a bunch of lil grassroots political parties. They will band together and form the penis party, and sell penis creams, pills, and lord knows what else to "support" the party.
    The only real solution is to have terrorists start using spam to fund their operations... only with that boogieman out of the closet will congress do anything about spam.
  • by enronman (664750) <johnNO@SPAMjohnrgrace.com> on Sunday December 28, 2003 @06:01AM (#7821217)
    There is the old story about the guy who takes a stack of bumper stickers for the opposing canidate and puts one on every cars bumper... With political spam it becomes SO much easier and fun. With to a bit of tech savy and good writting a great many fake messages could be sent out. I dare any politican to use this hardcore, because the backlash that could be unleashed against them would be frightfull once people learn that you really CAN get eail from your congresman!
    • There is the old story about the guy who takes a stack of bumper stickers for the opposing canidate and puts one on every cars bumper... With political spam it becomes SO much easier and fun.

      OT but still amusing... Years ago, the PvdA party (one of the opposition parties in Holland) made a bumper sticker that read "OUT with the CDA, IN with the PvdA". (The CDA was the incumbent at the time).

      The stickers proved wildly popular with CDA voters, who pasted them on trash cans, wastebaskets and dumpsters a

    • When January 1st rolls around in a few days, anyone who pulls something like that can be tracked down and heavily fined and/or jailed.

      And considering it would be against the government, the chances of you getting tracked down are much higher.

      You can campaign "for" an opposing candidate to make them look bad but you must not forge any headers or you will be in a deep pile of trouble.

      If a candidate were to do something like that against the opposition, they'd likely be kicked out the race. Breaking a bran
  • Surely the biggest problem polititians have is, unlike normal spam, the audience they are trying to reach is located in a very specific area. Mass emailing simply wouldn't work - although there may on most spam be a 0.1% response rate, this would be reduced even further to virtually nil when location is factored in. Even "spam lists" would have some degree of innacuracy when it comes to location of the recipitant. Maybe I'm missing something...
    • The NYT article says that what they are doing is taking voter "consumer information" (ie credit bureau) companies like Equifax that have email info. SInce chances are both Equifax and your voter registartion info contain your address, they can taget it pretty effectively. This isn't spam in the sense that it's not targeted, just in the sense that it's not wanted.

  • by zr (19885)
    ..since when geeks (please no offence, myself included) look to the government to legislate our way out of spam?! whats wrong with you people? shame on you, M$ is proving [slashdot.org] to be geekier than you!..
  • Next up:
    o SCO contributes to the Linux kernel
    o the RIAA releases RIAA/Kazaa for file swapping

    By the logic of Congress, neither action would invalidate their respective lawsuits.
  • by darnok (650458) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @06:19AM (#7821240)
    Are politicians required to send this email from specific email addresses e.g. your_faithful_candidate@congress.wankers.gov? It seems like they should be (i.e. in order to prove their spam is actually "from a political organization", it should at least come from a traceable *and documented* source), in which case a few simple email filters could make the problem essentially disappear.

    Thankfully I'm not a US citizen, so my exposure to this sort of rubbish is, oh, probably 2-3 years away...
    • Thankfully I'm not a US citizen, so my exposure to this sort of rubbish is, oh, probably 2-3 years away...

      Don't count on it. I don't live in the US, I've never been to the US. But I still get many spams telling me that I can swindle the US tax system. I think the whole world will suffer the spam fallout of local US elections.
  • Commercial (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Threni (635302) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @06:25AM (#7821252)
    Spam is generally defined as being `unsolicited commercial email`. How spam from the political wing of the armed forces can be described as commercial is anyone's guess.
    • in the recently passed CANSPAM bill, SPAM is explicitly defined as Commercial Email.

      So this Political SPAM is perfectly legal.

      Not only that, but said bill also legislates opt-out - which means any and every JimBOB spammer has the legal right to SPAM you once (assuming he follows a handfull of basic rules).

      So now all spammers need to do is recycle Business Entities like they do ISP accounts, and it's all Perfectly Legal and there's nothing you can do about it.

      All the SPAM you can stomach, and then some
    • They *are* trying to sell something - in this case themselves (like prostitution, except it doesn't pay as well).

      A better definition of spam is UBE not UCE - unsolicited *bulk* email. My own personal definition is "If I didn't *explicitly* ask for it, it's spam".
    • " Spam is generally defined as being `unsolicited commercial email`. How spam from the political wing of the armed forces can be described as commercial is anyone's guess."

      Consider that the government is the largest business in the country. It takes in more money, and spends more money than any other. It is one of, if not the largest advertisers. It tries to sell services. It tries to get you to let it control more of your life every day.

      The only difference between the government and a corporation is t
    • ...in order to get to the money. The politicians wants votes, so they get to keep their jobs as representatives ($$$) and maybe some campaign contributions to boot ($$$). What the armed forces want, I dunno. But I don't really care if it is commercial or not, as long as it's bulk.

      I think the definition of SPAM should be "unsolicitated bulk email" as well as UCE. Whatever your message is, you don't have the right to mass dump it on a bunch of strangers and expect them to carry the cost. It'd be like throwin
    • Re:Commercial (Score:3, Informative)

      by McDutchie (151611)
      Spam is generally defined as being `unsolicited commercial email`
      Er, no. A definition that is at least as common, and makes a lot more sense, is "unsolicited bulk email".
  • by Chatmag (646500) <editor@chatmag.com> on Sunday December 28, 2003 @06:42AM (#7821273) Homepage Journal
    It's the Congressional Members duty to keep their constituents informed. In a representative government, our elected officials must promote two way communication.

    The Congress Online Project [congresson...roject.org] Nine Benefits of a good web site, number 3: "Targeted communication with key audiences. Web sites can help build ongoing relationships with key audiences by providing targeted features and information. Timely, informative sections of a Web site devoted to a single issue, for example, can attract people who care about the issue and keep them coming back for more. And issue-based e-mail updates provide the opportunity to regularly communicate with people who subscribe."

    In order to fulfill the requirements of the Congressional "Franking" priviledge, Members would have to clearly identify emails sent to their constituents, with proper headers, From address, etc.

    Also, in order to provide documentation that they are reaching their constituents, they would most likely be required to maintain an email mailing list.

    I highly doubt that the Members would use the shotgun email tactic of spammers.
    • If they want to keep us informed... PUT UP A WEBSITE. That way, if I want to go there, I can.

      There is nothing in the Constitution that says that we, the people, are obligated to listen to ANYONE in our government. The reverse, however is true though.
    • I highly doubt that the Members would use the shotgun email tactic of spammers.

      The only difference is that they try to aim the shotgun blast at everyone in their state / district:

      "cross match them with large databases of names and e-mail addresses assembled by consumer data companies like Equifax, which has a database of more than 75 million e-mail addresses. E-mail addresses can usually be found for 10 percent to 20 percent of the voter file."

      Any UNSOLICITED BULK E-MAIL is SPAM.

      The Congress Online Pr
    • It's the Congressional Members duty to keep their constituents informed. In a representative government, our elected officials must promote two way communication.

      Hmmm. So if I call up my congresscritter, I should be able to talk directly to him, instead of some wet-behind-the-ears intern looking at a cheat-sheet full of the current "positions" that the honorable congressman is taking on issues, right?

      It'd be great if it were true. However, I smell something more along the lines of mass advertise until
  • by davmoo (63521) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @07:09AM (#7821310)
    Any politician that spams me will most definitely *not* get my vote. I'll vote for Fidel Castro for President before I'll vote for a scumbag spammer.

  • Surprising? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blankmange (571591) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @07:47AM (#7821372)
    And why should any of us be surprised by this? The politicians want to regulate it as long as it doesn't apply to them. I think that would cover quite a few things, not just spam.
  • TERM LIMITS! (Score:2, Interesting)

    These guys need to go... ALL of them. This country really needs to take back control of itself. Watch some Cspan folks, watch these guys debate in the house, watch the senate, watch all of the other covered events... watch these guys like a hawk. They're all slick, they all play each other for fools. Enough cnn, fox news, msnbc(does anyone watch it anyways?) and hell even the bbc is looking more like cnn these days. They have this game called politics down to a science called bullshit. You linux users
  • Oh my god! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rogerborg (306625) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @08:02AM (#7821402) Homepage

    You mean that we might see more than 98% of incumbents re-elected [commoncause.org]?

    A 5-1 funding advantage is what does that. Spamming voters can't exactly make it worse.

    • Re:Oh my god! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by WCMI92 (592436)
      "You mean that we might see more than 98% of incumbents re-elected [commoncause.org]?

      A 5-1 funding advantage is what does that. Spamming voters can't exactly make it worse."

      Don't forget that so-called "campaign finance reform" now makes it illegal for you and me to pool our money to criticize an incumbent 30-90 days before an election in any meaningful way that might be seen or heard by other voters...

      That law should have been called the "Incumbency Protection Illegal Constitutional Convention of 2002".
  • Public record? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Registered Coward v2 (447531) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @08:19AM (#7821441)
    If the email is sent using government, rtaher than private or party equipment, doe sthe list become a record that can be obtained using FOIA (Freedom of Information Act?) If so, Congress could very well help spammers harvest email addresses for at lost less than buying an email database that has been matched to records.

    If you can get the list, how long before someone spoofs a Congressman's addresse and sends his or her constiuents an email that upsets them and forces the rep to deal with the backlash?
  • I am sure the second some vote buying piece of shit starts to spam, the major blacklists will list them. Nothing like a spews listing to bitch slap common sense into a spammer and his isp.
  • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @09:17AM (#7821524) Journal
    From the article:
    The lists, which each have tens of thousands of addresses, are generally created by a process called e-mail appending, taking voter registration files from a member's district. The next step is to cross match them with large databases of names and e-mail addresses assembled by consumer data companies like Equifax, which has a database of more than 75 million e-mail addresses. E-mail addresses can usually be found for 10 percent to 20 percent of the voter file.

    ...
    The new policy says that lawmakers can freely send messages to voters who have agreed to subscribe to their e-mail lists. To build such lists, House members are sending huge amounts of bulk e-mail messages to their districts in the hope that some voters will subscribe.
    ...
    The unsolicited messages go out from Congressional offices as often as twice a month. The unsolicited messages, which have to stop 90 days before an election or a primary, are still subject to approval from the franking commission.


    So...

    - politicians are targetting their constituents only.
    - the unsolicited messages are still subject to the 90-day rule, and only contain an invitation to subscribe to a mailing list.
    - politicians are free to send whatever they please to people on the mailing list.

    That all sounds fine to me... Congress isn't really placing themselves above the law, and the fact that they can spam those on their subscriber mailing list at the taxpayer's expense, doesn't bother me that much. In truth, they should just get rid of the entire 'franking privilege', not just this minor part of it.

    But when all's said and done... if you spam me, I don't vote for you. It is that simple :)
    • fact that they can spam those on their subscriber mailing list

      You seem to have forgotten step where they grab Equifax's 75 million address SPAM LIST, trim it down to target their own state, then send a massive flood of UNSOLICITED BULK E-MAIL asking people to sign up for the mailing list. That is SPAM.

      Congress isn't really placing themselves above the law

      I guess that's true in that they put the law so far down that every spammer can be above the law. The law they passed actually legalized much formerl
    • Ok... you get both people spamming you, you don't vote?

      Perhaps instead of taking the quite, and safe unthinking route, you start a dialog with your elected official?

      Naw, that woud reqiure effort, and you might actually effect things. Then what would you complain about?

      You could also try to understand why politicians are exempt to things like this, but then again, that would take away from your busy day of complaining.
  • Congress is full of hooey. They have been for over two hundred years. Why this is newsworthy I don't know, unless it's just because it involves spammers, people most of us respect almost as much as we respect our Congressional representatives. Oh wait ... these spammers are Congresspeople. Now what are we going to do?
  • by satch89450 (186046) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @11:22AM (#7821885) Homepage

    As a SysAdmin I've been studying the DNS-based blocking lists in general and SPEWS in particular. Seeing how they say they operate, how long do you think it will take for the US Government to "win" an escalated listing in the SPEWS database?

    "I'm sorry, Congressman, but the reason all your mail is being bounced is that our server IP address is listed in SPEWS. What is SPEWS? 'Spam Prevention Early Warning System.' Because we have been unable to answer complaints to abuse@house.net to their satisfaction, they have put together a 'crimes file' showing that The House of Representatives is a spam-lovin enterprise, have listed our entire netblock, and we've run out contractors to superserve our mail servers -- every time we hire one, it ends up listed in SPEWS, too."

    Will the blocking lists work as they are supposed to, or are they going to take the smart path and NOT piss off the one organization who makes the "Laws of the Land?"? I can see it now: it becomes illegal for any operator of a mail server with more than 100 commercial clients to use any DNS- or domain-based blocking list.

    Not exactly the death of the Internet, but possibly a case of felony if you do, damned if you don't.

  • As a constituent, one is opted-in to one's representative's messages by default. A civic duty, it is debatable only whether it should even be possible to opt out. It's bad enough not to read an email from your representative, though that is your right. But if you opt out of the direct notification, and opt to get your government info through only, say, Fox News, perhaps you should also give up your 911 phone service, and maybe even your subscription to the police. The fire department will have to keep comin
    • As a constituent, one is opted-in to one's representative's messages by default.

      Bill Clinton called. He wants you to return his dictionary.

      • The 90s called. They want to remind you that "opt-in" is a neologism with roots in "option", implying the option to "opt out".
  • Spam is not the way.

    Typical outcome of sending 1.000.000 spam messages is 100 happy (though dumb) customers, 10.000 really pissed off people and mostly indifferent but rather hostile rest. The profit is no loss from those 10.000 and profit from those 100.

    But if you send out spam to your voters, divided fifty-fifty for and against, the outcome is 50 votes gained (the other 50 would vote for you anyway) and 5.000 votes lost (people who decide they won't vote on a party that uses spam)

    So... feel free to se
  • by XO (250276)

    Consumer advocacy groups say that this policy may be unfair to the challengers because this loophole could be used by elected officials to communicate with voters right up to Election Day.


    Phear that. Imagine elected officials actually COMMUNICATING with voters. Doesn't happen.
  • Most people know not to try to use the "opt out" link in normal spam. But I bet most of them would go ahead and try to use it if they got a political spam, assuming either they'd honor it or ignore it.

    So if I were a spammer (uck), I'd spend some time formatting a very official looking letter from some national committee with a nice "opt-out" link that would go straight into my "known good" database.

    It'd be a dirt-cheap database-vetting move, and probably pretty effective.

    Hell, it might even make it past
  • Perhaps fortunately, there are only some many Congress-critters to account for. Black-holing them should be pretty easy. Add a press release when each is to explain their ethical lapse...
  • by KalvinB (205500) on Sunday December 28, 2003 @04:38PM (#7823487) Homepage
    Government officials will be following the rules. You're not going to be getting e-mails with "v0t3 f0r 930r93 6u5h"

    If you don't want policitical spam, as soon as one arrives, look for the tell and block it. They're not going to be faking domains and it's going to be professionally written. A preemptive expression block of "vote for" would probably knock out close to 100% of political spam.

    The problem with spam isn't spam itself. It's that it's designed to be difficult to filter out.

    As long as spammers of any sort follow the rules, I don't have a problem with them. I can filter them out without any trouble if I choose.

    Howard Dean is praised for exploiting the internet to build his campaign. Now you're whining that they would dare use e-mail. It's a public medium. Anyone can use it. Calling it "spam" doesn't make it any less e-mail. Politicials will be sending out a few million (if that) not billions. How many voters gave out e-mail addresses? Those are the only people who will be getting e-mails. I wouldn't call it spamming when you volunteer your e-mail address. That's "opt-in."

    If they abuse it, don't vote for them. If they use it intelligently, encourage others to do the same. That's what the internet is for.

    The only issue is the black out period. And no one has done anything yet. I'd be more impressed if a politician didn't take advantage of a legal situation than if they were forced not to.

    Ben
    • The problem with spam isn't spam itself. It's that it's designed to be difficult to filter out.

      This is what I've been saying all along -- the law needs to treat spam filters like any other computer security measure (i.e. wilfully crack one and you could spend the next 5-10 hoping like hell that your herbal v1agra and p3n1s enlargment products didn't work for your cell mate). This would leave spammers with only the options of "too dangerous" or "too easy to block".

"Never ascribe to malice that which is caused by greed and ignorance." -- Cal Keegan

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