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Spam or outreach? Richardson campaign gets 400,000 email addresses from public records

 Posted: 11:20 AM June 20, 2014

Opponents dubbed Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, the "spam king" in 2012 after he used public records laws to obtain — and use — hundreds of thousands of personal email addresses.

That spring, he crashed the Oregon Legislature's server for hours by trying to send a newsletter with four large attachments to 475,477 people — the equivalent of one in eight Oregonians.

Now Richardson, the GOP nominee for governor, is back to his old ways.

Richardson's campaign obtained 418,958 email addresses in February through a records request to the Legislature, and has been generating complaints for sending unsolicited emails, often to non-supporters. Richardson's campaign paid $55.19 for the addresses, campaign finance disclosures show.

"We're very proud of our ability to reach out to voters across the state, and the more people we can put on Dennis' list, the better he can communicate with those folks," campaign spokeswoman Meredith Glacken said.

The campaign also collected email addresses from people who signed up on Richardson's website and attended campaign events, Glacken said, though she declined to disclose the total number of addresses on Richardson's campaign listserv.

Not all recipients have been happy to see Richardson's emails in their inboxes.

Jim McLaughlin, a retired attorney who lives in southwest Portland, said he started receiving Richardson's campaign emails a few months ago, though he says he never signed up for them.

"Hell, no!" McLaughlin said. "Not only am I a registered Democrat, but I'm a precinct committeeperson."

He kept getting them, he said, after repeated requests to be taken off the list. Records show his email address was among those obtained in Richardson's records request.

McLaughlin was particularly incensed with fundraising emails sent around the May 20 primary. In one sent May 31, finance director Trinity Krsak asked for last-minute contributions to reach a goal of 300 new donors before midnight.

"I promise to stop emailing you if you donate before midnight tonight," it said.

That message didn't sit well with McLaughlin, who worked as a federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., and Portland.

"I'm going to keep flooding your inbox unless you send me money? That sounds an awful lot like extortion," McLaughlin said. "It's just a weird way of approaching anything, whether it's trying to generate support for a political campaign or somebody out trying to sell widgets."

McLaughlin fired off an email to Richardson's campaign about a half-hour later but didn't hear back until June 2, after The Oregonian asked about it. Glacken apologized to him.

Campaign officials spent that day updating the email list, Glacken said.

— Yuxing Zheng, The Oregonian

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