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December 25, 2004
Kerry The E-Mail Santa?

John Kerry took a lot of flack for hoarding over $15 million during his presidential run rather than spending it on his own candidacy or to assist down-ticket campaigns. Now the Washington Post reports that Kerry may hold his large e-mail list as a lever with which to control the Democratic Party:

The former Democratic presidential candidate built, over the course of his two-year campaign, one of the biggest e-mail lists in his party. More than 2.7 million supporters signed up to receive his campaign e-mails, which his advisers have said were critical to its fundraising success. Now, as Democrats survey the post-election landscape, some are wondering what Kerry might do with all those e-mail addresses.

It is a relatively new question. Few cared what happened, for example, to Al Gore's e-mail list when his Democratic presidential campaign folded. But with the increasing maturation of the Internet as a political tool -- and the huge sums that can be raised online -- some experts said those addresses can remain valuable long after an election.

"It could be a very powerful thing," said Eli Pariser, the executive director of's political action committee. "It is part of the way that online organizing is reshaping politics, because, as opposed to the boom-bust cycle of campaigns -- where you build up all this grass-roots energy and then it dissipates -- now you can keep them connected to you for cheap. It totally changes what it means to be a losing presidential candidate."

It doesn't really surprise me that Kerry hasn't simply volunteered his list to the DNC. After all, he didn't offer the cash that sprang from it in large part until the Democrats went public with their complaints against his miserliness. Why would he turn over the keys to the bank when he won't offer even a withdrawal?

However, I think that the Post seriously overestimates the efficacy of an e-mail list, even one as vast as Kerry's (reportedly four times larger than Howard Dean's). E-mail addresses tend to change often as users move from one service to the next. If Kerry collected most of those addresses in the spring and summer, I would venture that at least a quarter of them have lapsed. Home addresses hold much more value as even notoriously rootless Americans don't move households as often as they change Internet providers. By the time the next campaigns roll around in 2006, I'd be surprised if any more than 20% of the list responds to their missives.

Kerry obviously wants to use whatever perceived power this e-mail list holds with the Internet-ignorant to force the Democrats to follow his lead, perhaps even to stage a second run at the Presidency in 2008. He'll act as a particularly picky Santa Claus, checking his list and thinking twice before using it to bestow presents on those candidates he favors. When the Democrats finally realize that the list has long gone past its expiration date, expect Kerry's influence on the party to come to a suddent halt.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 25, 2004 9:33 AM

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Tracked on December 25, 2004 2:38 PM

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