Just what we don’t need in this election year: Political spam.
Writes Jeffrey H. Birmbaum in The Washington Post:
A new loophole in election spending regulations is likely to produce a torrent of unsolicited e-mails to voters — and widespread complaints about political spam — as the midterm elections approach this fall, political consultants say.
Purveyors of private e-mail addresses and designers of campaign Web sites report that their businesses are booming this year as partisans take advantage of an exemption in election rules that allows wealthy individuals to pour unlimited sums into Internet communications without having to disclose their identities or total expenditures.
The loophole is "potentially breathtaking," said Roger Alan Stone of Advocacy Inc., an e-mail address retailer.
"It provides an enormous opportunity for political campaigns," agreed Max Fose of Integrated Web Strategy, which also sells e-mail addresses to political campaigns. Both men are expanding their staffs in anticipation of what they expect to be a multimillion-dollar surge in unregulated campaign spending via the Internet.
Critics worry that electoral e-mailing, which blossomed two years ago but is still in its infancy, could grow so quickly that millions of voters will be deluged with unwanted electronic messages before Election Day. Critics said the result could be a backlash against the candidates being advertised.
"I can’t imagine this will be a particularly effective method of getting out the vote," said Jim Jordan of Thunder Road Group, a political consultancy. "It is spam after all, and there are few things that annoy us more than spam."
The e-mail exemption, which was approved by the Federal Election Commission in March, might become the next big avenue for campaign funding abuses, some experts warn. Heavy spenders, such as individuals or groups not affiliated with campaigns, could use mass e-mailings to alter the outcome of key congressional races and still remain anonymous, a result that runs counter to the intention of federal election laws.