Congress and Spam

Lawmakers took heat last week for buying e-mail address lists and sending hundreds of thousands of unwanted bulk messages to their constituents. But it's all perfectly legal - and it still will be under the new CAN-SPAM law. The New York Times reported on a policy change by the House Administration Committee allowing e-mails to be sent during the 90-day blackout before an election for taxpayer-supported congressional mass communications. Good thing we found that out just days before a national law to reduce the number of unsolicited e-mails took effect.

House members told the Times that their e-mails aren't spam because the messages are "directly intended for constituents who have the right to opt out." I especially liked this comment from John Marshall Law School professor David Sorkin: "They are regulating commercial spam and at the same time they are using the franking privilege to send unsolicited bulk communications [that] aren't commercial." They can send e-mail, and they can use telemarketing. Isn't it nice how lawmakers like to tell everyone else what to do but want to keep every exemption for themselves?

Marketing experts say 2004 will be as politically active as last year, what with a true chance at getting postal reform passed and privacy continuing to go under the microscope (see story, page 1). USA Today carried a point-counterpoint piece recently asking why so much consumer information is collected. The Direct Marketing Association specified the benefits, including more targeted offers and lower-priced products and services. "Marketing data assists companies in sending ads for lawn mowers to people with lawns - not those who live in high-rises," wrote the DMA's Patricia Faley Kachura. Then why did I get a catalog for new moms last week (no baby at my home), and why am I still getting automobile insurance offers when I haven't owned a car in seven years?

New Year, New Things

Look for some changes in DM News this year. Our weekly e-newsletter covering search engine marketing begins tomorrow. To subscribe, go to Send news items to senior editor Brian Morrissey at or 212/925-7300, ext. 296. We're also starting a monthly section dedicated to Circulation Marketing. The first one coincides with this month's Circulation Day. If you have circulation news, contact senior editor Mickey Alam Khan at or ext. 216.

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