Republican Party claims spam was a dirty trick

A frame-up, or a Dubya fan gone wild?

Without mentioning names, or any words starting with 'D', the Republican National Committee (RNC) eChampions Web site claims to be the victim of a dirty trickster who's been spamming the daylights out of innocent civilians in their name since about 6 October and until about 14 October.

"Third-party organizations are sending out unauthorized e-mails that purport to be on behalf of the eChampions program from lists not in our control," the Web site claims, adding that "the intent of this unsavoury operation is to falsely accuse us of engaging in inappropriate e-mail campaigns."

As it turns out we were able to confirm at least part of the statement. Direct-marketing outfit ClickAction, which is handling the RNC e-mail campaign, told us that several ISPs had indeed been hijacked in the past week, enabling someone, or ones, to send eChampions' absurdly cheerful promotional e-mail to many thousands of unsuspecting victims, including The Register's own John Lettice, as we detailed two previous stories linked below.

As for whodunit, that has yet to be learned. The FBI is currently investigating, and thus far no announcements appear forthcoming. ClickAction spokesman Dan Flanegan speculates that they might have a decent trail to follow, as they have kept the investigation alive. "If the FBI had nothing to go on, considering the demands on their time and personnel, they would likely have dropped it by now," Flanegan told The Register.

The spam e-mails might have come from anywhere, and possibly several places. ClickAction noticed "very long headers coming from all over the world" in specimens they've examined, Flanegan noted.

ClickAction doesn't know the source of the e-mail lists used in the spam campaign, but notes that their own database, which is maintained on a strict, opt-in basis, was not among those appropriated by the jolly trickster.

Someone, apparently, was less than amused by the spam which appeared to come from e-Champions, as we've received unconfirmed reports that a denial of service (DoS) attack was responsible for the site's being unavailable for about twelve hours on Wednesday. Another possible explanation is that the site is so popular among tech-savvy Republicans that the server couldn't handle the traffic. (Yeah, we're thinking 'attack' too.)

The eChampions home page exhorts visitors to understand that their "role as an eChampion is to forward these e-mails to AS MANY friends, neighbours and family members as possible and encourage them to register to become Republican eChampions!" (emphasis original)

Sounds a bit spammy to us - viral, even. But it's not spam according to any definition in use within the direct marketing industry. Spam, strictly speaking, is unwelcome e-mail which comes from a stranger or an organization one has not permitted to solicit one, though many Netizens use the term loosely to indicate any piece of e-mail which they don't welcome.

So much for what we know or have reason to believe. As for the RNC's hysterical claim that the spam trickster meant to discredit their august organisation by leaving them susceptible to accusations of 'engaging in inappropriate e-mail campaigns,' we're on rather shaky ground.

The RNC could be the victim of a mere teenage prank. Or an exceptionally enthusiastic George Dubya supporter might have got a bit carried away by the RNC's exhortation to "forward these e-mails to AS MANY friends, neighbours and family members as possible."

Hell, maybe the guy was just giving his all for Dubya. ®

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