With the election less than a month away and anxiety growing on both sides, the Trump campaign has chosen to put its email donor list on the market.
It’s a valuable resource, to be sure: Most of the 20 million contributors are partisans who probably don’t mind if their email addresses are rented to like-minded politicians.
The New York Times broke the news on Saturday, observing that this “appears to be the first time the campaign of a sitting president facing re-election has opted to market its list.”
That’s probably true, although there has long been a gray market in which political lists of all types are up for grabs. Old-timers recall how a copy of Jimmy Carter’s 1980 re-election list went out a back door and into general circulation.
Then there’s the time that email marketing genius Richard Viguerie copied names and addresses of GOP donors on yellow legal pads in a government clerk’s office. It fueled the first Reagan campaign, and made Viguerie’s business.
But we’re now in the digital age, and there are many new concerns. For one: Is this list permission-based? The email rental market is now generally limited to consent-based lists, although politicians typically find their way around such ethical norms. They robo-call and do other things that are generally deemed off-limits to mainstream marketers.
Second, are there any EU citizens on this list? There’s a fair chance that some people in Europe have kicked in a few Euros to his campaigns. We would hate to see our chief executive getting sued under GDPR.
As to the facts, the Times reports that an outfit called Excelsior Strategies is offering the file for $35/M, as they used to say on list data cards, “or more if the renter also wants to push posts into the Facebook timelines of supporters.”
The list has already been used by Ron DeSantis, running for governor in Florida, Josh Hawley running for the Senate in Missouri, to nonprofit groups supporting Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court, and to a conservative author.
Well, that’s fair enough. Did you think the list was going to be rented to Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders?
Speaking of Sanders, he might be looking at this with interest. He has denied access to his donor email list to the Democratic National Committee.
It’s not clear what will be left for the Trump campaign after list brokerage-management fees. The Times notes that the “transactions may not be completely traceable through campaign finance filings.”
But it’s all apparently legal in the U.S. Federal election law allows such list rentals, the Times observes.
That said, here are a few standard questions: Is the list well-seeded with decoys? Are there protections to keep politicians from misusing the data? Also, losing political campaigns are notorious for walking away from bills. Is that factored in?
All that said, this is a win-win for the Trump campaign. It is raising money while helping fellow Republicans.
Only one problem: Trump has called political data an “overrated” tool, according to the Times.