The Save Sierra College Committee, which opposes incumbent Aaron Klein and supports his opponent John Vodonick, has run into what it calls "Klein's latest dirty trick."
After the committee had sent out an email message to registered voters, Klein's attorney contacted the email service provider and demanded that it prevent the committee "from transmitting any additional messages, and confirm to us in writing that their account has either been terminated or suspended." The letter alleged that the email message was illegal spam and not legitimate political communication. Specifically, the letter charged that sending email messages to a "database of registered voters who did not opt-in to receive his spam broadcast" was a potential violation of "laws prohibiting electronic mail spam" -- without citing a single statute or the offending email.
Kent Pollock, whose firm handled the message for the Save Sierra College Committee, says the e-mail service provider shut off service for 24 hours (from about 1 p.m. Tuesday until 1 p.m. Wednesday).
This is outrageous. This was not an unsolicited commercial email, otherwise known as spam. This was pure political speech protected by the First Amendment. The names of registered voters came from publicly available rolls and were used for a non-economic, political purpose, as specifically allowed under state law. And it happened one week before the election, a sensitive time.
California's Election Code is clear that while "commercial use" of voter registration information is prohibited, candidates and committees may use voter information for election or political purposes. That's how you get mailers from candidates and committees. The state's Political Reform Act doesn't explicitly address emails (and legislators need to update it to reflect this technological change), but it's clear that emails supporting or opposing a candidate or ballot measure are political speech.
Further, this email message was not anonymous. It said, "This message authorized and paid for by the Save Sierra College Committee, ID # 1286925."
Klein's latest stunt is reminiscent of what he did in 2004, when he made wild accusations about violations of election law to press for the resignation of former Sierra College President Kevin Ramirez. Voters shouldn't fall for this a second time.