Take Action — Protect Your Inbox | Good Practitioners | News | About
We have a problem — you’ve seen it in your inbox.
Are you sick and tired of getting hundreds of political fundraisers that you never signed up for? We are too.
“I donate to campaigns I believe in often, including sometimes maxing out to them. Yet, my email inbox is a war zone of unsolicited spam from countless campaigns, whose email lists I did not opt-in with.”– Leo Z.
What is ethical email?
- Is sent only with your permission; i.e. you opted in to receive it.
- Does not use scammy tactics like fake quadruple matches, deceptive subject lines, and unrealistic calls to action (“four more donations from your zip code and Trump will be ARRESTED!”)
How did we get here?
Unethical actors in the political space – including certain digital fundraising firms, email vendors, and political committees – have recently established practices of buying, swapping and selling lists of emails, WITHOUT the permission of the email address owners (the recipients).
So when you give to one candidate, your email address is often transferred to dozens of other candidates. In the commercial & business sectors, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 generally prohibits this kind of thing, but it unfortunately does not apply in the political fundraising world.
For individuals: How can I protect my inbox?
First and most basic, if you never signed up to hear from that candidate or organization, click “spam” or “junk” on their emails. (Simply unsubscribing doesn’t hurt, but is not super-helpful; your email has probably already been swapped or sold to multiple other campaigns.) You should also choose to “block sender” or “block sender’s domain” if those options are available to you.
If enough of us do this, eventually the mailbox providers like Gmail and Hotmail/Outlook will put all those messages where they belong – in the junk folder.
The next steps to shut down un-permissioned emails?
- Sign the open letter to candidates: I will no longer donate to a candidate who won’t respect my privacy and protect my email address from being sold or traded.
- Sign the petition to the major email service providers that service Democratic campaigns: Please don’t allow my email to be sold or traded; enforce your rules – require proof of opted-in permission for all bulk uploads of email addresses; and give us a clear way to report violators.
- On any social media fundraising posts from candidates you follow, simply reply, “Hey, I’ll donate online … but only if you’ll pledge to protect my privacy, and NOT rent, swap or sell my email address. Otherwise, I’ll give by check – what’s the address where I should mail that?”
- At the next fundraising or town hall event you attend with a candidate in your area, be sure to ask the candidate you’re supporting (either privately or publicly) about their privacy policies, and if they will commit to NOT selling, renting or trading your email address to other candidates or committees.
“I am SO irritated with my email being abused, that I will not donate a single dollar to any campaign or PAC that spams me, and I am reporting every single unsolicited political email as spam on my gmail.”– Leo Z.
Ready to do more?
Here are some helpful mailto links to send an message and request that certain for-profit vendors delete your personal information from their databases. Please note:
- Californians have special rights under the CCPA — so please choose the correct link below!
- Make sure to send these messages from the address where you’re getting all the un-permissioned email.
- You will need to add your name and address at the bottom of the message.
Please feel free to share any replies you get back from these companies, by forwarding them to email@example.com … thanks!
For organizations and candidates: Do you respect subscribers’ and donors’ privacy? We’d love to highlight you here.
If you represent a candidate, cause or campaign that does NOT buy, sell or swap the email addresses of your supporters … and stays away from scammy tactics in your emails … please fill out this short form to be listed below. (Also please let us know if you would like your logo and/or link to donate listed here.)
- Donor Organizer Hub
- (list currently in formation!)
Also, here are a few candidates and campaigns who are running better email programs:
This is one of the most detailed and policy-oriented emails ever sent by a political campaign ⬇️⬇️— Josh Nelson (@josh_nelson) August 9, 2022
Whether you agree or disagree with his assessment of the bill, the way in which @BernieSanders communicates with his email community with honesty and substance is laudable. https://t.co/QSAT8tPFVM
Great email from PA Dem senate candidate @JohnFetterman this am calling out Republican candidate Mehmet Oz’s clickbait emails which he calls SCAM.— Murshed Zaheed (@murshedz) July 29, 2022
Unfortunately Oz’s email subject lines are not any different from the trash we see from DCCC and few other D outfits. pic.twitter.com/AfJnvgGfrn
Great email from @maura_healey for MA-Gov outlining how her campaign thinks about its email program and why it refuses to engage in deceptive email fundraising practices: pic.twitter.com/WlsB1CPNkD— Josh Nelson (@josh_nelson) July 26, 2022
If we were going by their email programs it’s pretty clear how one (team @AOC) treats her Democratic supporters with respect while the other – @TimRyan – treats Democratic grassroots donors like trash – like ATM machines – sending unsolicited, unwanted emails. pic.twitter.com/q4DLWBIAWh— Murshed Zaheed (@murshedz) July 31, 2022
Want to figure out who’s NOT respecting your privacy?
The easy (but not infallible) way: add a plus sign and code to any gmail address (or gmail hosted domain) as you sign up for a list, i.e. instead of your real address of firstname.lastname@example.org, use email@example.com .
The better way? Just get a new freebie address from Google, Hotmail or Yahoo. (Easiest if you do it in a different browser from what you normally use.) It only takes a couple minutes. Other options include Firefox Relay or Trashmail.
Has anyone done this work on a broad scale? Yes. The Princeton Corpus of Political Emails did a big study in 2020 of more than 3,000 email senders. It’s absolutely worth a read.
- Democratic voters say Democratic fundraising spam is backfiring (Civiqs/DailyKos/CivicShout poll, November 2022)
- Fundraising appeals are a plague on our politics. Here’s why you should care. (Washington Post, 4/8/2021)
- How Deceptive Campaign Fund-Raising Ensnares Older People (NY Times, 6/26/2021)
- That ‘Team Beto’ Fund-Raising Email? It Might Not Be From Beto. (NY Times, 11/26/2021)
- Be Aware: 5 Kinds of Misleading Democratic Fundraising Emails—and What Donors Can Do (BlueTent.us, 3/9/2022)
- The Two Worst Email Fundraising Vendors—and the Democratic Groups and Candidates That Use Them (Bluetent.us, 4/5/2022)
- I’m TIRED of spam. Send me $3 now! (David Slifka/Innovation and Money in Politics, 7/8/2022)
- (podcast) Donate Now with Michael Whitney (Why Is This Happening? The Chris Hayes Podcast)
- (podcast) Ethical Email Fundraising with Josh Nelson of The Juggernaut Project (The Great Battlefield)
We are grassroots donors, digital professionals, and progressive activists for ethical email.
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