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Copyright (c) 2003 Duke Law & Technology Review 
Duke Law & Technology Review

MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS: Political E-Mail: Protected Speech or Unwelcome Spam?

January 14, 2003

2003 Duke L. & Tech. Rev. 1


By: Mark Sweet



As political campaigns grow more expensive and competitive, the Internet provides a new medium for advertising. Recently, candidates have turned to electronic mail as another way to reach the electorate. By sending out unsolicited bulk e-mails, candidates can engage (or annoy) many voters with the click of a button. Commonly known as "political spam," 1 this campaign tactic is an inexpensive supplement to television, radio, and print advertisements. The 2002 campaign was full of pioneering candidates, angry voters, and bitter opponents: for instance, Delaware Democrat Steve Biener ran for his state's lone seat in the U.S. House of Representatives without engaging in any fundraising. 2 Part of his low-cost campaign included sending unsolicited e-mails to Delaware voters. 3 In the North Carolina race for U.S. Senate, Republican Elizabeth Dole sent out a number of unsolicited e-mails to voters and was greeted with a lawsuit. 4 Republican Bill Jones, candidate for Governor of California, sent unsolicited e-mails in March to thousands of recipients, some of whom were not California residents or even U.S. citizens. 5 Finally, in Florida, Governor Jeb Bush's campaign staff seized an opportunity to reach the opposition: replying to an e-mail sent out by challenger Bill McBride, Gov. Bush's staff e-mailed a list of Democratic supporters explaining why they ought to re-elect Republican Gov. Bush. 6 Gov. Bush's staff viewed the e-mail as a way to expand its voter base, but McBride's staff called it a "dirty ...
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