Barack Obama: When the Same Email is Both Solicited and Spam

The re-election campaign of U.S. President Barack Obama sent a bulk email today to two email addresses of mine. One of those email addresses was subscribed to that list by me a couple of months ago, so that I could keep current on election news. (During campaign seasons I usually subscribe an email address to most candidates’ lists to see what they have to say, and how they handle their lists.) The other is a spamtrap that, if it ever belonged to a real person, was closed no later than 2005. Both of these emails were sent from the same IP and are otherwise identical. The ESP is Blue State Digital.

This incident illustrates a problem that blacklists and reputation services face almost constantly: what to do when the same email from the same sender is both solicited and even wanted in some cases, but unsolicited and spam in others. Despite what many marketers and senders of bulk advertising email might think, the people working at most widely-used blacklists and reputation services don’t want to block email that a user asked to receive. They find it extremely frustrating when a business, or a non-profit organization, or a political campaign sends bulk advertising email to both legitimate subscribers and spamtraps. Should they block the spam, even though some of the email was requested? Or should they not block it, even though some of the email (often a significant amount) is spam?

Fortunately, I don’t have to make that decision. Unfortunately, unless my spamtrap is the only non-opted-in email address on President Obama’s campaign list (which I do not believe for a minute), other people will have to make that decision. That strikes me as poor strategy by those in his campaign who manage this email list, and who presumably want his supporters to receive this email. And a number of other political campaigns — for candidates whose politics span the U.S. political spectrum — are making the same mistake.

Sending IP:

Spam Sample:

Actual Headers:

Received: from ( [])
        by <xxx> (Postfix) with ESMTP id <xxx>
        for <xxx>; Tue, 21 Feb 2012 11:xx:xx -0600 (CST)
Received: by (Postfix, from userid 507)
        id <xxx>; Tue, 21 Feb 2012 12:xx:xx -0500 (EST)
DKIM-Signature: <xxx>
Received: from maillist-o
        by with local (PHPMailer);
        Tue, 21 Feb 2012 12:xx:xx -0500
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 12:xx:xx -0500
To: <xxx>
From: Barack Obama <>
Subject: This seat is yours
Message-ID: <<xxx>>
X-Priority: 3
X-Mailer: PHPMailer [version 1.71-blue_mailer]
X-maillist-id: <xxx>
X-maillist-guid: <xxx>
List-Unsubscribe: <<xxx>>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/alternative;

Readable Email:

From: Barack Obama <>
To: <spamtrap>
Subject: This seat is yours

Friend —

Tomorrow night, we’ll pick the first of four supporters who will sit down with me for dinner.

I’m hoping you’ll take me up on the invitation.

Donate $3 or whatever you can today to be automatically entered for the chance to be my first dinner guest:

These meals are one simple thing that sets this campaign apart. The seats at our table don’t belong to any Washington lobbyist or powerful interest.

These seats are yours.

Donate $3 or more today and be automatically entered to win:

Hope to see you,



Paid for by Obama for America

Contributions or gifts to Obama for America are not tax deductible

This email was sent to: <xxx>
To update your address, go to:<xxx>
To unsubscribe, go to:

21 Responses to Barack Obama: When the Same Email is Both Solicited and Spam

  1. Pingback: A Tale of Two Presidential Campaigns…. » MainSleaze

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