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January 18th, 2006 Ian Demsky | News Stories
 

Don't Spam So Close to Me

And they're off: County chair candidates already warring over emails

     
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Multnomah County Chair candidate Ted Wheeler isn't pimping pr0n, v1ag*ra or trying to make your dick bigger (that we know of), but that didn't stop thousands of people from getting unsolicited emails from his campaign Thursday and Friday.

And many recipients aren't happy.

"I did not give anyone permission to share my name and contact information with you," a user named Beth Hamon replied to the mailing list for all to see.

The flap began when Wheeler's campaign made a public-records request for the email address of everyone receiving the "Linn Line" a Web-based newsletter put out by County Chair Diane Linn. Names on the list were then signed up for Wheeler's campaign mailing list.

The Linn Line, which started in December as the candidates geared up for the May 16 primary, has been accused of being nothing more than a taxpayer-funded soapbox for Linn.

Almost 11,000 people receive Linn Line, a list that includes about 4,500 county employees, plus people who contacted the chair on county matters and about 3,000 who voluntarily subscribed, county officials said.

But a backlash has erupted after those folks started getting multiple Wheeler emailings.

Gayrightswatch.com blogster Bryan Harding posted an entry Thursday calling Wheeler's tactic "dirty."

"Since when is using a list of people who are subscribed to a newsletter that keeps them current on Multnomah County business, kosher to use for a large unsolicited email campaign for a person running for Mult. County Chair?" he wrote.

Adding to some people's electronic annoyance was what Wheeler campaign manager Barbara Willer called "a technological problem" that caused multiple emails from the Wheeler camp to start filling inboxes, mostly with replies from people asking to be taken off the list.

Itai Michael Dewar, an Oregon resident currently studying in Israel, responded to the mailing by saying that he'd never heard of Wheeler before "I received 15 email messages" from his campaign. The spam will cost Wheeler his vote, he wrote. Other posters expressed similar sentiments.

Willer apologized to people who received multiple mailings and said the technological problem responsible had been fixed. But she was unapologetic about using the Linn list.

"You bet we emailed the Linn Line list," Willer told WW. "They are getting a steady diet of propaganda from Linn, and we wanted to make sure these folks at least had access to another view. We don't want to bother people if they are not interested, which is why we tried so hard to make it easy to unsubscribe."

Linn characterized Wheeler's move as "a mistake" that violated the privacy of people who had contacted the county or signed up for her newsletter.

Oregon Deputy Attorney General Pete Shepherd said there's no state law that prevents sending unsolicited emails. Spam laws are meant to protect consumers from misleading and fraudulent advertisements.

NOTE: This story published to the web on 1/20/2006.

 
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