Well, this much is clear: we were remiss to not have a blog set up earlier. 2010 gave us lots to write about, and we’ve held it in for too long. The time has come to recap two of those awesome stories.
STORY #1: The case of the Arizona mystery mailer
In September of 2010, we received a flood of emails from concerned Arizona residents asking us why we were sending them a piece of mail that asked them to put their name, Social Security Number, and birth date on an unsecured postcard. Seeing as we don’t send mailers, we were a little confused.
Turns out the RNC had been sending mailers to random Arizonans, encouraging them to vote absentee for some reason. The mailer included a 5.5”x8.5” postcard version of the absentee application we created for Arizona (AZ doesn’t have an official statewide application). Unfortunately, the postcard application had only two contacts on it – the AZ county mailing address and Long Distance Voter’s email address (which we put on all the forms we create).
A Clerk from Navajo County reached out to us, also assuming we had sent the mailers, and asked us to please stop. I spoke with her and found out that they were receiving as many angry calls and emails as we were.
Here are some of my favorite emails we received (expletives deleted to spare your sensitive/work-friendly eyes):
PLEASE TAKE ME off your mailings. I would never vote for a party
of “NO’.You are a bunch of liars.
WHEN SOMEONE GETS BACK TO ME LET ME KNOW THEIR BIRTHDATE, SS#, TAX ID, PHONE NUMBER AND ADDRESS. YOU ASKED ME THESE QUESTIONS CAN YOU RETURN THE FAVOR? IF NOT THEN [DELETED] OFF.
Thank you so much for the early voting ballot application.
But, how dumb do you have to be to put your name, address, phone number, email address, date of birth, state & county of birth, and social security or drivers liscense or state ID number on a POST CARD?
This is the kind of thinking that makes Washington/Government the black hole that it is!
who in the [DELETED] are you? asking for my drivers license and SS#? How about if you tell me who you like having sex with and in what position. [DELETED] off
In the end, I wrote an open letter to firstname.lastname@example.org, which was also posted to a few Arizona blogs (I just put it up on tumblr, back-dated to the date I wrote it). I never got a response, sadly.
STORY #2: DemocracyDependsOnIdentityTheft.com
Not long after the fun with mailers, we started getting more emails, this time from South Dakotans asking us why we were robocalling them. At this point, I had to laugh. An email exchange with a good-natured fellow cleared things up. He received a robocall from a group called democracydependsonyou.com (no longer active), urging him to go to their website and provide all sorts of personal information. He went to the site and found no identifying info, save for a big “MORE INFORMATION” button that linked to…us! I checked it out myself and, indeed, that was the closest thing to a byline the site provided.
My investigation led to the Alliance for America’s Future, a shadowy organization set up by Mary Cheney and billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. I reached out to them and had an exchange with Barry Bennett, one of their principle operatives. Indeed they were responsible for the site, but they found nothing wrong with providing no information on their website and linking to us as “more information.” After a few failed attempts at congeniality, I resorted to threatening legal action (a bluff – we didn’t have our crack law team back then), and they finally changed the site’s footer to read, “Paid for by the Alliance for America's Future - not affiliated with LongDistanceVoter.com.” It took another threat to get them to stop using “MORE INFORMATION” as a link to longdistancevoter.org (that’s dotorg not dotcom, btw…but how much copy-editing can you expect for a billion dollars, am I right?).
The whole shebang (including some attempted damage control by Debra and me in the comments section) was chronicled in this article.