Friday, August 14, 2009

Mailing List

Commenter akafred is head of a nonprofit Life For Sudan. He recently got two emails from David Axelrod about Obama's health care proposals, setting out what the White House feels are the facts to counter misinformation about the proposed legislation and the surrounding discussion on health care reform. I understand a number of these emails have gone out, not from the DNC or some PAC, but from the White House itself - from the government.

Life For Sudan did not contribute to Obama or any candidate, nor is it on some collection of mailing lists of people who might be sympathetic to the administration's ideas. Even if it were, it would be improper for the White House to use or purchase such a list to put out its side of the story as something coming from the government. There is a a line dividing what an administration can do as advocacy versus what it can do as government. Imagine if George Bush has sent out an email giving reasons for the Surge to all military families, or defense contractors. Yet this is the same thing, except Obama has actually done it. The source for the White House must be the government registry of nonprofits, a group they rightly or wrongly believe might be on board with their ideas.

Obama is using government information to campaign for his ideas. We saw this occasionally under the Clinton administration. It comes from the attitude that "this is good for the country, so we can use the government's resources to accomplish it. It's not unethical, because it's in a good cause."

My recollection is that this was what horrified liberals most about the Nixon Administration, that he equated his election with what was good for the country, allowing him to use the machinery of government to accomplish partisan goals. It takes a Nixonian hubris to think like that - which perhaps is the Democratic norm these days.

Perhaps there is some other explanation which will be uncovered in the next few days which is more innocent. At the moment, it looks very much like a misuse of government resources to advocate for one side in a legislative discussion.


gringo said...

AVI, it's very simple. If Dubya done it, it's wrong. If ∅bama did it, it's not only right, it's enlightened and revolutionary and will bring us together and will make us proud of America after eight years of Dubya hell.

GraniteDad said...

On NRO, they were trying to track down what it came from. Their best lead so far was that it seemed to be email addresses that people had used to contact the White House for congratulations after the elections. Not definitive, but interesting nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

While my wife and I have written the White House (various presidents over the last 20 years), we've did not write any congratz to the current occupant.

I'm hacked the government would use my tax-dollars to tell me what to think and tell me to tell my friends what to think.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I don't think Life For Sudan sends congratulations to anyone upon election. Akafred?

He sent me the letter, BTW. It's a deeply one-sided document.

karrde said...

Somehow I ended up on the Obama mailing list. I can recall inputting an email address in one of those "Tell the President your thoughts" web-pages on . (At the time, I was sending comments about public audits for every appointed official in the Executive Branch, and suggesting similar audits for every elected official.)

Anyway, I've got one email from David Axelrod about the health care proposals. Deeply one-sided is an accurate description of the contents.

akafred said...

Life for Sudan is strictly non-partisan. We owe that to our donors, even if the IRS weren’t there to keep us on the straight and narrow. It’s possible that sometime in the past I sent an e-mail to the White House through Life for Sudan encouraging them to take an active part in resolving the Darfur situation; but that would have been in early 2008 – the Bush years. I received the expected form letter reply thanking me for my concern, etc. But I never received any unsolicited correspondence on Darfur or any other issue from the Bush White House. I suggest the current White House either accessed that historic database or harvested e-mail addresses from one of the charity clearinghouse sites that we participate in, like Network for Good. So I’d be interested to know if other non-profits received friendly letters from David Axelrod encouraging us to take a political position. Maybe to stay in the clear with the IRS I should report to them that I received a “fishy” letter.

Erin said...

Ohh, apparently it's not the WH's fault. Silly us.

Teaching 1984 in a liberal MA town should be fun this year!