Why politicians should not spam (or even come close)

So I’ve gotten into some flamewars with folks about spammer politicians with people who don’t seem to grasp points until they’ve gotten hit on the head. So I figure I’ll write a nice post on the subject and make it sound reasonable and not have to bother finding new and clever ways to call them an idiot.

Politicians are legally allowed huge latitude in how they run their campaigns. They are restricted far less than businesses as far as how they can run their phone banks. Most places have procedures in place to give candidates access to the voter rolls so they can actually try and connect with each and every voter. And they often times have access to a wide group of people who are willing to give them money and time.

One interesting quirk of most spamming laws is that they exclude political spam. One might say that it’s to protect free speech, but, given that spam burdens the recipient, it’s more like preventing politicians from spraypainting graffiti on your house or calling you collect. I suspect that if you ask they’ll say they didn’t want to chance the law getting struck down, but it is really because very few politicians are interested in making it harder for them to get re-elected.

Now, you have to remember that there’s tons of stuff that candidates don’t do that’s legal but they don’t do. Because there’s a backlash.

In order to understand what’s going on, you have to understand how email addresses are acquired.

The easiest is to just spider the web for addresses or buy a database from somebody who does. Now, consider how many offices are elected. There’s the president, plus 100 senators, plus 435 representatives in the US. If every politician spammed, that would be 536 spammers. Do you want to get 536 emails every few weeks during campaign season when you MIGHT be electing 4 of those people. Assuming you live in the US. And once you start talking about the elections in every other country of the world… And state offices. That’s a lot of spam.

So, clearly that’s dumb. And I haven’t seen too many folks really do that. What they are doing is trying to merge databases and fail at it. There are a lot of really awful databases that float around. This is why I get spam that uses the previous address my parents lived at to try and grab my attention. I see it every time I clear out my spam filter.

So, we’ve got McCain spamming me because he thinks that my email address is really my dad’s and that we all still live in Ohio. And we’ve got Charlie Brown spamming me because he thinks my email address is really my dad’s. So, while Charlie Brown is one step above McCain, he’s still an asshole.

So, you might ask, isn’t it OK if I just email each of these stupid politicians to let them know that they’ve got the wrong guy. Well, I have tried to contact several of them, but they don’t really care. I’m not a constituent, so the spam keeps coming in. So about the only weapon I have is to find the ones that are trying to run a bad “web 2.0” campaign and bring as much light to the situation as possible.