Permission Denied, John Oxendine Style

Why on Earth would anyone believe a word John Oxendine had to say, let alone elect him governor of Georgia?

Insurance Commissioner John W. Oxendine has denied persistent rumors that he was once the subject of a corruption investigation. But newly obtained documents show that the Republican gubernatorial front-runner was indeed the focus of a state probe that was later referred to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

John Oxendine has denied that he was once the subject of a corruption investigation. I don’t know what reality he lives in, but here in the real world, truth carries more weight than words. How can you deny you were the subject of a corruption investigation, yet refuse access to the files the federal government compiled in the case?

There’s some evidence the feds also pursued the case, but Oxendine has refused the AJC’s request to authorize the newspaper’s access to any file the federal government may have compiled.

The mere fact he is denying permission to access files pertaining to the investigation completely contradicts his earlier statements that there was no investigation.

It does not take an investigation to demonstrate that John Oxendine is nothing but a liar.

Every Georgia voter needs to remember John Oxendine’s own words when they head to the voting booth on July 20th.

Some People Will Say Anything

So, after everything you’ve read in the past week, do you still support John Oxendine for governor of Georgia? You might want to know what he said back in 2003.

During a conference for auto-insurance managers, he said,

“We are a pain in the butt. We are very high-maintenance…. I am not a professional regulator, I am a politician…. I’m going to do what I think is going to get me reelected.”

The, he went on to say,

“you need to realize that you have to find a way to always make me look good in front of the voters.”

People of Georgia, is this really someone you want running your state? Is this the type of person who should be living in the Governor’s Mansion? Can you imagine the other interests and industries he will pressure if he is actually elected to the highest office in the state? Still not convinced?

When speaking about campaign contributions, He insisted he was not allowed to take contributions from insurance companies but he was allowed to collect them from individuals. So he added,

“I’m the incumbent. You all are going to give me money because you’re afraid not to.”

In an attempt to take a step back, he put his foot in it further by responding,

“The article didn’t tell the whole story. I was commenting on the benefits of having an Insurance Commissioner who is elected, not appointed, and that incumbent officials receive contributions from people who have an interest in that office.”

Hello. He was the incumbent, who received contributions from people who had an interest in the office. What a dork.

If you want a governor who will say and do anything to coerce people to make him look good in front of the voters you should vote Oxendine, but if you want a governor who will actually work for the best interests of the state of Georgia, you may want to re-think your choice before you step into the voting booth.

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Oxendine & Sheffield: The Truth Shall Set You Free

When I wrapped up my post last night I was convinced that the John Oxendine campaign had shared their e-mail list with the Maria Sheffield campaign. Like I said in my post last night after researching the connections between John Oxendine and Sheffield’s campaign manager, as well as Maria Sheffield herself, it was bluntly obvious that some back scratching was occurring.

This afternoon, I received an e-mail response from Kathryn Ballou, Maria Sheffield’s campaign manager. Her response was rather long-winded (who am I to talk about people being long-winded) but she answered my question, honestly.

This will be my final post on this issue. I believe, after receiving the response from Mrs. Ballou that the issue has been resolved, and my original inquiry has been addressed, albeit with some snarky responses and a whole lot of political mumbo-jumbo thrown in to boot.

First, here is the original inquiry that I sent to Kathryn Ballou.

Hi Kathryn,

My name is Michael Barrett, and I have a question regarding the mail list for Maria Sheffield’s campaign.

On February 5th, I received two emails from the Sheffield campaign. I never signed up for, nor did I consent to receive any email from the Sheffield campaign, and I would like to know how my addresses got on your list.

Did you get the list from another candidate by chance?

Please let me know as soon as possible, as I would like to get to the bottom of this.

Michael T. Barrett
Temple, GA

When I sent that e-mail I was already convinced that the Oxendine campaign had released the e-mail addresses to the Sheffield campaign. While Kathryn didn’t come out and say she received any list from the Oxendine campaign she left that possibility wide open in her response.

Michael, thanks for contacting the campaign – I appreciate anyone who takes the time to get back to the campaign regardless of the issue. I have to give a dig back to you (and I say this good naturedly) about this email, though – it went to my gmail account and not the one we have on record with the campaign. I could ask where you received my gmail account as I can identify everyone who has it – I assume someone has forwarded it on to you. Just the way it works sometimes :>)…

We are fortunate that Maria has worked with the industries regulated by the Department of Insurance for 15 years and the Republican Party for 20+ years. During this time, she has kept a database of all of her contacts and has a nice size base upon which we have built. Unfortunately, we do not have the base several of our opponents do.

We have made a huge effort to build upon this database in the past 6 months by asking associates, friends and supporters for their group lists, copying emails from messages that were sent out and the recipients were not blind copied (several campaigns have sent out emails without blind copying their lists), obtaining lists from groups that Maria is a member of or has spoken to, researching all sorts of media contacts as well as any and every blog which has any political bent, business sources, etc.

I am not going to go into detail of where we look as you may be supporting one of our opponents, but assume they are using the same resources. It is not difficult to find the resources, just time consuming.

There are 2 types of candidates. Those who do the research and reach out to as many voters as possible and those who rely on special interests and Capitol contacts. Maria makes no apologies for being a candidate who puts a high priority on listening to and communicating with voters. Often, this is done via email. With all due respect, the campaign reached out to you, and by so doing demonstrated respect for you as a Georgia voter. The campaign followed standard, social protocol by installing a user friendly opt out link.

In the only email we have sent to date, Maria received fewer than 100th of a percentage point of people choosing to opt out. If you would like to opt out as well, please let me know and we will delete you from our database. I see you are in Temple and I appreciate that you are a Georgia voter. If you have not already chosen a candidate in this race, I hope you will at least read our materials and consider Maria.

Kat

Before I write about some of the finer points of her response, here is the response I sent back to her this afternoon.

Good afternoon Kathryn,

Thank you for responding to my inquiry. What started as a simple inquiry into why two e-mail addresses which I have never used for any other political e-mail list other than John Oxendine’s campaign were added to Maria Sheffield’s e-mail list has turned into quite the adventure of deception and deflection. I appreciate your attention to this matter, and I also appreciate your explanation which answered my question without being deceptive nor deflecting from my original inquiry.

All I wanted was a response from either campaign which answered my question, how did my two e-mail addresses wind up in Sheffield’s database? Thank you again for answering my question. Although your response was very political in nature and a bit long-winded, you answered my question and removed any doubt that the Oxendine e-mail list was shared with the Sheffield campaign.

I received your gmail address from someone connected with the Republican Party of Georgia. I had mentioned my e-mail concerns to them and they offered me your address in confidence that you would be able to address the issue directly. I have worked on many political campaigns over the years and I know that contact addresses on the candidate’s website don’t always go to, nor are they always read by, the campaign manager. My contact wanted to make sure my concerns were addressed as quickly as possible and reached you directly, which is why they offered your gmail address. Also, (tongue in cheek) it’s a little bit different obtaining an e-mail address of the campaign manager for a political candidate as opposed to mining two private e-mail addresses from another candidate’s database.

Thank you again for your response,

Michael T. Barrett
Temple, GA

I know she mentioned the e-mail address issue “good naturedly”, and I addressed that in my response to her, so let’s move on with everything else she had to say. Let’s start with that third paragraph.

We have made a huge effort to build upon this database in the past 6 months by asking associates, friends and supporters for their group lists, copying emails from messages that were sent out and the recipients were not blind copied (several campaigns have sent out emails without blind copying their lists), obtaining lists from groups that Maria is a member of or has spoken to, researching all sorts of media contacts as well as any and every blog which has any political bent, business sources, etc.

As she explained the process by which Sheffield has been building her e-mail database, she removed all doubt that the Oxendine campaign shared their list. “Asking associates, friends, and supporters” for their lists made it pretty clear. My addresses are on no other list (together) than John Oxendine’s and her explanation just verified everything I thought had happened.

We all get spam. Spam is just part of the daily process if you have an e-mail account. Does anyone else find it a bit disturbing that a political candidate would be relying on mailing lists where recipient addresses were not blind copied to build their own database? As a web developer and the owner of a web hosting company I am quite familiar with OPT-IN and OPT-OUT e-mail marketing, but I will address that issue in a few moments.

The next paragraph made me laugh out loud. She actually took the time to tell me that she was not going to go ‘into detail’ of where they look for addresses because I may be supporting one of their opponents. Ha ha. Wow. I just had to laugh out loud again as I typed that.

She already told me where they look, by “asking associates, friends and supporters for their group lists, copying emails from messages that were sent out and the recipients were not blind copied (several campaigns have sent out emails without blind copying their lists), obtaining lists from groups that Maria is a member of or has spoken to, researching all sorts of media contacts as well as any and every blog which has any political bent, business sources, etc.”

Yes, I am still laughing.

Kathryn Ballou goes on to state that there are 2 types of candidates. “Those who do the research and reach out to as many voters as possible and those who rely on special interests and Capitol contacts.”

I honestly thought she was being “good naturedly” again. Was she serious? If doing research to reach out to voters includes borrowing and grabbing unsolicited e-mail addresses for your campaign then I don’t think you’re much better than those special interest and Capitol contacts. In fact, just for the record, none of those special interest and Capitol contacts have ever spammed me before either, so that speaks volumes about the character of the Sheffield campaign.

She continues with, “With all due respect, the campaign reached out to you, and by so doing demonstrated respect for you as a Georgia voter. The campaign followed standard, social protocol by installing a user friendly opt out link.”

Respect? Spamming two of my e-mail addresses with unsolicited campaign e-mails is their way of reaching out to me and demonstrating respect to me as a Georgia voter? Pardon me while I try to remain “good naturedly” here, but that’s a load of bullshit and she knows it.

The Sheffield campaign did not reach out to me. They spammed me. They demonstrated a complete lack of respect to me as a Georgia voter by sending me a pair of unsolicited e-mails to two addresses that do not receive political notifications, except from one other candidate.

Until February 5th of this year I had no idea who Maria Sheffield was, and if her campaign wanted to reach out to me they could have done so using any number of means to do so, one of which is to contact me directly through my blog. Mrs. Ballou stated previously that the campaign was “researching all sorts of media contacts as well as any and every blog which has any political bent”. I guess scraping my addresses from one of their many sources was easier than finding 101 Dead Armadillos somewhere down the road.

The final paragraph of her response claims that the e-mail she sent had “fewer than 100th of a percentage point of people choosing to opt out”. There’s probably a good reason, or reasons why this is true.

The first could be that many of the e-mails sent were automatically marked as spam and deleted by anti-spam software before the recipients ever viewed them. Spam Assassin, the anti-spam solution we use on our servers give customers the option of automatically deleting spam. Recipients would never know they received the spam therefore they never would have opted out from the list.

Another possibility is that people didn’t see a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient could opt out of getting email from them in the future. The CAN-SPAM Act, which applies to businesses contains seven main requirements.

  1. Don’t use false or misleading header information. Your “From,” “To,” “Reply-To,” and routing information – including the originating domain name and email address – must be accurate and identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  2. Don’t use deceptive subject lines. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  3. Identify the message as an ad. The law gives you a lot of leeway in how to do this, but you must disclose clearly and conspicuously that your message is an advertisement.
  4. Tell recipients where you’re located. Your message must include your valid physical postal address. This can be your current street address, a post office box you’ve registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox you’ve registered with a commercial mail receiving agency established under Postal Service regulations.
  5. Tell recipients how to opt out of receiving future email from you. Your message must include a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt out of getting email from you in the future. Craft the notice in a way that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand. Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.
  6. Honor opt-out requests promptly. Any opt-out mechanism you offer must be able to process opt-out requests for at least 30 days after you send your message. You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days. You can’t charge a fee, require the recipient to give you any personally identifying information beyond an email address, or make the recipient take any step other than sending a reply email or visiting a single page on an Internet website as a condition for honoring an opt-out request. Once people have told you they don’t want to receive more messages from you, you can’t sell or transfer their email addresses, even in the form of a mailing list. The only exception is that you may transfer the addresses to a company you’ve hired to help you comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  7. Monitor what others are doing on your behalf. The law makes clear that even if you hire another company to handle your email marketing, you can’t contract away your legal responsibility to comply with the law. Both the company whose product is promoted in the message and the company that actually sends the message may be held legally responsible.

As you can see in this screen shot of the bottom of the e-mail that was sent, there are links to subscribe and unsubscribe, but they seem to get lost in all of the social networking, “paid for”, and other links polluting the bottom of the e-mail message. Basically, there is no clear notice that’s easy for an ordinary person to recognize, read, and understand that they can opt-out of receiving future emails.

 

The term “opt-out” doesn’t even appear in the e-mail message, and honestly, I doubt many of the people who “junked” the e-mail never even checked the bottom of the message before they clicked that “junk” button in their e-mail client.

So in summary, I was correct in suspecting that the John Oxendine campaign shared my e-mail addresses, which makes Tim Echols look pretty bad this evening since he assured me just yesterday that “We do not sell or give our list to anyone, so unless it was stolen or hacked, I don’t think it was from us”.

As an independent conservative in the state of Georgia, I choose to support the candidates who are the most fiscally conservative and hold themselves to the highest of standards and the strongest of ethics.

It may be a pipe dream to think that I might one day find a candidate who possesses all of those requirements but that hasn’t stopped me from looking for them. It also hasn’t stopped me from calling out those who claim to possess any of them when they clearly do not.

The Oxendine-Sheffield E-Mail Connection

I honestly don’t know where to begin this post. Bear with me, this is going to be another long-winded write-up, but I have my reasons for going into so much detail.

This past Saturday I wrote about the e-mail spam I received from the Maria Sheffield campaign at e-mail addresses which were subscribed to the John Oxendine campaign e-mail list. At the time I wrote that post, I honestly believed that the Oxendine campaign shared their email list with the Sheffield campaign. Tonight, I am more sure of that fact than ever.

Before I begin writing about today’s events and get to my reasons for believing they did indeed share the e-mail list, let me repeat something and make it very clear. Two of my e-mail addresses are on John Oxendine’s email list. I have never used either one of these e-mail addresses for any other political campaign. The first one is the address I receive most of my non-political e-mail correspondence at, and the second one is one of my business e-mail addresses that I don’t normally use for anything “non-business”. I received two e-mails from the Maria Sheffield campaign, one at each of the e-mail addresses that are on no other political candidate’s mailing list. I have a completely separate e-mail address I receive all my other political related, and political party, e-mails on. I just wanted to make that clear (again) before I begin.

Earlier today I had quite an e-mail exchange with Tim Echols, John Oxendine’s campaign manager. It all started early this morning (around 3:00 am) when I decided that I would pursue an answer to this “mystery” because, to tell the truth, I am still quite angry that my addresses were sold/shared/stolen/hacked with or by someone else. Here is the text of the e-mail I sent to Mr. Echols.

Hi Tim,

I would like to know how my email addresses, which were used to sign up for John Oxendine campaign emails, were released to Maria Sheffield’s campaign?

I signed up to receive email from the Oxendine campaign with the confidence that my email addresses would not be sold/given/traded with other campaigns or anyone else, as I am not interested in the slightest in most other campaign notifications.

The only political campaign I used these email addresses with was the Oxendine campaign so I know it wasn’t just coincidence that I received spam from the Sheffield campaign on both those accounts on February 5th.

Please let me know how (and why) this happened, as I am not happy in the slightest to be receiving spam at either of these addresses.

Thank you,

Michael T. Barrett
Temple, GA

At 9:49 this morning, I received the following response.

Michael,

Upon further investigation, you may be getting these emails because you have a blog. I know that we typically add bloggers to our list in an effort to disseminate information, and I am sure other candidates do this too. Great photos of the ivory gull on your site too, by the way.

We do not sell or give our list to anyone, so unless it was stolen or hacked, I don’t think it was from us. When you sign up on the database, that info goes into our CRM database. I do know that
numerous folks have tried to hack into that, but to our knowledge no one had been successful.

Thanks for your inquiry and I apologize. I can remove you from the list if necessary.

Tim

I have been ‘blogging’ since July of 1997, and not once in all that time have I been added to any political candidate’s e-mail list, nor any elected official’s e-mail list without my consent. The fact that I am a ‘blogger’ does not imply any willingness to receive unsolicited e-mails from any politician, let alone anyone else.

I have written about political scandals, been critical of sitting Presidents, worked actively on political campaigns, and covered politics in general for the better part of 28 years (13 of it blogging) and this explanation just does not fly with me. Sorry. The more I think about it now, the more I can’t help but think I was being “poo-poo’d” from the beginning.

Mr. Echols went on to state that unless the list was stolen or hacked he didn’t think it came from them. Well then, there are only four possibilities here.

  1. The Oxendine campaign sold their mailing list.
  2. The Oxendine campaign shared their mailing list.
  3. The Oxendine campaign mailing list was stolen.
  4. The Oxendine campaign mailing list database was hacked.

Of course there are a few other possibilities but I am trying, in all fairness, to be reasonable here. He thanked me for my inquiry, apologized, and offered to remove me from the list.

Wow. Why would I need to be removed from the Oxendine list? I wanted to receive e-mail alerts from his campaign, why on Earth would Mr. Echols offer to remove me from their list. If my addresses had been sold/shared/stolen/hacked it was already too late, so why would I need to be removed from Oxendine’s list? Unless, of course, there was some explanation for all of this that I was not aware of.

The following is my next response to Mr. Echols.

Hi Tim,

Thank you for your quick response, I appreciate it.

Your explanation would be plausible and I might tend to believe it if one of the emails involved was not one of my business email addresses.

I do not use that address with anything blog related, and I have never received anything from any other campaign except the Oxendine campaign with the exception of these new emails from the Sheffield campaign.

The email address in question does not receive any other unsolicited emails and the Sheffield emails came to both addresses on your list.

Because I know your reputation, I do believe you wouldn’t sell or give the addresses out so I will post an update on my blog, but I would appreciate it if you double checked on your end because the Sheffield campaign got both of my addresses, one of which like I said, is on no other list but yours.

————————-
Michael T. Barrett
(Sent from my iPhone)

At the time I sent that response (11:15 am) I actually believed Tim Echols. In fact, as I began writing this post today, I still thought it was possible that he didn’t know if the list had been sold/shared/stolen/hacked. But then again, he is Oxendine’s campaign manager. If anyone knows what’s going on in that campaign, it would be him. I wasn’t sure what to believe until I received his next response.

Michael,

Thanks, and I have one more question in my internal investigation.

The business email is “insurance” related or no? Can you give me that email address so I can check my lists (I have about 40 of them)? Did you actually sign up for our stuff using that “business” email, or was it another?

Tim

Why would it matter if my business e-mail address was “insurance” related? Do they have some special “insurance” related list that they are freely passing on to other candidates? Does it really matter if my e-mail address is “insurance” related or on any one or more of 40 lists?

I received two e-mails from the Sheffield campaign, who is to say I won’t receive more from other candidates in the future?

He needed my address to check his lists. All 40 of them. Wait one moment. I thought (based on the first e-mail response) that all of the e-mail addresses were added to the CRM database? Wouldn’t it be easier to check my addresses in the database rather than manually check each of the 40 lists? Where do they keep those 40 lists anyway? Who has access to those lists?

Did one or more of those 40 lists get passed on to the Sheffield campaign? I can’t be sure, because Kathryn Ballou, the campaign manager for Maria Sheffield, never answered my e-mail inquiry today. Could there be some other connection I was missing here? That’s when I decided to do a little more homework.

Some of you political junkies may have already known some of this, but even you non-political types are going to raise an eyebrow when you read this.

Let’s start with Kathryn Ballou, Maria Sheffield’s campaign manager. Did you know she was John Oxendine’s campaign manager before Tim Echols took over?

Doesn’t it seem odd that the campaign that spammed my e-mail accounts is being managed by the same person who used to manage the Oxendine campaign? Is this just a coincidence or could the passing of information be more of a “I’ll scratch your back” kind of thing rather than a selling/sharing/stealing/hacking thing? It wouldn’t be such a stretch to believe this if only there was some other connection that would make this “back scratching” theory more plausible.

Oh wow, just look at that, will you? There’s Maria Sheffield. Could she be the connection we’re looking for? You bet she is.

Did you know Maria Sheffield spent six years working with the Georgia Department of Insurance?

Don’t forget now, John Oxendine has been the Insurance Commissioner of Georgia since 1994. Come on now, put two and two together already. John Oxendine is Maria Sheffield’s former boss.

So let’s review what we have so far.

My e-mail addresses were sold/shared/stolen/hacked by the John Oxendine campaign to the campaign of his former employee and heir apparent, Maria Sheffield, which is being run by his former campaign manager, Kathryn Ballou.

I may be relatively new to the Georgia political scene, but I wasn’t born yesterday.

While I cannot be certain what went down or how my e-mail addresses ended up on Maria Sheffield’s mailing list, I am convinced it happened because of these two connections and I have no doubt that members of the Oxendine campaign as well as members of the Sheffield campaign knew exactly what they were doing.

So Many Questions, So Little Time

In 11 days we will be choosing the next President of the United States. Well, we won’t be choosing him, the Electoral College will be choosing him, but they will do so based on our votes from state to state.

Doesn’t it seem like the candidates have been campaigning for four years or so? No, it couldn’t be that long, because four years ago, Barack Obama said he wasn’t qualified to serve as President. He said he was a firm believer that you need to know what you are doing when you apply for a job, and that he would have to start running for President right then and there before ever serving a day in the Senate. I think that’s exactly what he did, don’t you?

I have election fatigue. I am tired of it all. I am tired of turning on the television in the morning and hearing about the polls. I am tired of turning on the television or the radio, only to be inundated with ads. But most of all, I am tired of the political double-speak.

I am tired of hearing one thing and seeing another. I am tired of listening to Barack Obama say something about his plans, only to read those plans myself and learn they are completely different than he said they were in his speech.

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John McCain Picks Sarah Palin

Today, John McCain announces Sarah Palin as his running mate for vice-president.

Sarah Palin is an excellent choice, and honestly, one of my two preferences for the job. Mrs. Palin has served as Governor of Alaska since 2006, giving her executive experience, even if only two years worth.

Before serving as Governor, Mrs. Palin ws appointed Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, by then Governor Frank Murkowski. She served in that position from 2003-2004, when she resigned because of the ‘lack of ethics’ of her fellow Alaskan Republican leaders. She has proven she is a woman of ethics, that’s for sure.

Sarah Palin is educated and she in not a lawyer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in politics.

When she was pregnant with her son Trig, she and her husband, Todd, were informed the baby possessed an extra chromosome and would have Down’s Syndrome. Rather than choosing to end Trig’s life at that early stage of the pregnancy, she chose to welcome him into the world with open arms.

Sarah Palin is an educated, proven leader with executive experience and an honest and ethical core. She hunts, fishes, and eats mooseburger. I wonder if that tastes like buffaloburger?

Congratulations Mrs. Palin. Good luck in November!