Let’s Retire John Oxendine From Georgia Politics

I almost forgot to mention that I heard back from Tim Echols, John Oxendine’s campaing manager, on Friday. It turns out the information from their database was shared by a “similar consultant”.

Michael,

We share a similar consultant with the Sheffield campaign, and it appears that is how your name wound up in their database. Please know that I did not authorize the sharing of any list, and certainly
apologize for this happening if it occurred that way.

I do value my reputation and work hard to maintain a good name. Sorry for your trouble.

All the best,

Tim Echols

So who is the consultant?

We know that Sheffield’s campaign manager, Kathryn Ballou, is Oxendine’s former campaign manager. We also know that she stayed on to help the Oxendine campaign after she stepped down, but before she stepped in to run the Sheffield campaign. Is she the “similar consultant” Mr. Echols is referring too?

If not, how many other consultants are being shared between the two campaigns?

Speaking of John Oxendine, did you read the latest?

Ten Alabama political action committees, found last year to have funneled insurance company money to Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine’s campaign for governor, have rejected subpoenas from the Georgia State Ethics Commission.

This is bad. This is very bad. It seems two local Georgia insurance companies funneled money into multiple PACs that turned around and donated equal amounts back into the state of Georgia and candidate John Oxendine’s campaign.

Last May, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that two Rome, Ga. insurance companies – State Mutual Insurance Co. and Admiral Life Insurance Co. – sent checks to the 10 PACS. The insurance companies are both headed by the same CEO, Delos “Dee” Yancey III. The PACs are administered by the son of Donald V. Watkins, the head of the bank who also sits on the board of both insurance companies. The bank also once was co-owned by Yancey’s father.

Most of the PACs had little or no money in their accounts before the infusion of cash.

Once the payments were made from the insurance companies, the PACs each sent $12,000 – a total of $120,000 — to Oxendine’s campaign. The money was all sent in the same amounts and on the same dates from all the PACs.

Georgia’s Ethics-in-Government Act prohibits officials from taking money directly from companies they regulate. The law also prohibits funneling money through multiple PACs to get around contribution limits of $12,200 per candidate in a normal election cycle.

If the law prohibits funneling money through multiple PACs then State Mutual Insurance and Admiral Life Insurance have some questions to answer.

Even though he returned the money after the original story ran in May, John Oxendine has some questions to answer as well.

Yancey, whom Oxendine describes as a friend, is a major player in the insurance industry. Oxendine and Yancey often spend time together. Oxendine has gone on hunted trips as Yancey’s guest in Mexico and Georgia. Oxendine repeatedly has appointed Yancey chair of the Georgia Life & Health Guaranty Association, a state-created organization that pays claims when insurance companies become insolvent.

Does John Oxendine actually expect us to believe he had no knowledge that his good friend and hunting partner was making such sizable donations to his campaign?

Many people have told me that John Oxendine has been fooling voters since 1994, and it appears to me that he thinks he can still get away with it.

After the whole e-mail fiasco, the attacks on Lynn Westmoreland, and now this, I’m through with John Oxendine and his antics. He’s the last person I want to see in the Governor’s mansion.

It’s time for John Oxendine to retire from the Georgia political scene.

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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.