CA Candidates Take Heat Over Planned Spam

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California gubernatorial candidate Jane Harman and other Democrats came under fire over a news report of plans to send unsolicited campaign e-mail to constituents.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, plans are in the works to send at least a million Californians during the coming weeks "electronic slate cards" providing endorsements and information on a roster of state Democratic candidates.

California Assemblyman Gary Miller (R-Diamond Bar) last week joined with the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail (CAUCE) and Internet service provider Consortium to condemn the plan.

"Jane Harman does not want to go down that road," said Miller, who is sponsoring California Assembly Bill 1629 in an effort to control unsolicited commercial e-mail.

"This is the most senseless form of political advertising yet," said CAUCE chairman Scott Hazen Mueller. "Many voters are already annoyed by campaign ads, and this will give them another reason to be upset."

According to the Chronicle, political consultant Robert Barnes, president of the San Francisco-based Informed Voter Network, said his group is not spamming anyone because "were not selling anything. We never ask you for money. We're not trying to get you to buy anything. … This is political free speech, the highest form of free speech."

Barnes praised e-mail as a "whole new way of reaching voters," adding that some of the e-mail will be targeted to specialized voter groups like gay and lesbian activists.

Miller called politicians' view of e-mail as an inexpensive and attractive alternative to conventional mail irresponsible and short-sighted.

"Forcing the recipient of an advertisement -- commercial or political -- to pay for that advertisement is wrong," he said.

Other candidates reportedly to be endorsed on the "cyber-slate" include Democratic hopefuls Cruz Bustamante for lieutenant governor, Michela Alioto for secretary of state, Bill Lockyer for attorney general and Delaine Eastin for schools superintendent.

Barnes said the Informed Voter Network compiled the e-mail addresses of millions

of Californians from a variety of public and private sources.

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