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Edwards Campaign Modifies Online Fundraising Practice

John Edwards's presidential campaign has modified its online fundraising approach to give visitors an "opt-out" option if they are just trying to send a sympathy note to Elizabeth Edwards about her cancer recurrence.

The change reflects an apparent attempt to separate the handling of Mrs. Edwards's illness from the incessant need for money to fund her husband's campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. The adjustment comes after The Sleuth reported last week that the Edwards campaign was soliciting contributions from people who sent sympathy notes to Elizabeth Edwards through the Edwards campaign Web site.

"Thank you very much for sending a note to Elizabeth," says an e-mail sent Saturday from deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince in response to a sympathy message sent via the Edwards Web site. "I can't tell you how much the outpouring of kind sentiments means to her."

The e-mail continues:

"She's working on responding to all the correspondence but, in the mean time, she wanted you to know that she just had a great few days on the road in Iowa and New Hampshire with John, Cate, Jack, and Emma Claire.

"If you would like to continue to receive e-mails from the John Edwards campaign with other opportunities to get involved, please click the link below to sign up for our general campaign mailing list."

Clicking on the link takes visitors to a page where they are given the option to "CONTRIBUTE" to the campaign.

This is different from how the Edwards camp was doing things last week. In the aftermath of the wave of public sympathy for Elizabeth Edwards after she disclosed that her breast cancer had returned, the campaign gathered e-mail addresses from well wishers and automatically added them in its fundraising database. Those well wishers then quickly received solicitations for money.

A day after The Sleuth reported on the practice, the New York Post chased the story. "Edwards Cashing In On Wife's Cancer," screamed the headline. The N.Y. Post reported that the Edwards campaign, after it was confronted by reporters about the matter, "said it will add an option to allow well-wishers to decline getting future e-mails."

And now, apparently, they have. Though Prince, the deputy campaign manager who sent past weekend's e-mail, did not respond to The Sleuth's request for comment on the reason for the change.

By Mary Ann Akers  |  April 9, 2007; 9:45 AM ET
 
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Comments

The problem with your first story and this subsequent one is that you never got it right: the description of Edwards' website wasn't entirely accurate, or at least the impression you left wasn't.

Ana Marie Cox at TIME's Swampland blog ate crow for both of you:

"Mary Ann's story -- and my post -- both leave the impression that it's a specific get well note that lured people in. It isn't. It's true that the current "message" from John and Elizabeth on the website is about her illness, so I imagine that many of the notes they got were about that news, but it's not as though the campaign was specifically asking for get-well wishes and then (intentionally or not) asking sympathizers for money.

"Then again, the fact that the "send a note" form has been a part of the site for years backs up the theory that someone just forgot to change the default collection of emails on this generic "note" form after the Edwardses made their announcement."

Posted by: Corinne | April 9, 2007 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Mary Ann-- you and Sleuth are misrepresenting the facts again.

Those who sent a message to the Edwards were fully aware that they were providing their email address to be contacted for fund raising purposes, so what on earth is the problem here?

You haven't quoted any horrified folks who sent their condolences and thought John Edwards had some nerve asking for their email address.

Come to find out Mary Ann you were embellishing upon the entire set-up at the Edwards web site. You insinuated that the site was soliciting "sympathy notes" for John and Elizabeth. Well there is no such thing at the Edwards campaign site but there is a link called "Send A Note To John and Elizabeth."

Oh and just one more thing Mary Ann... the intro screen at the Edwards website asks anyone and everyone who enters the site for their email address, but that isn't specifically linked with sending a sympathy note, or just a regular old note to John and Elizabeth. There is email request but the most likely reason for that is maybe, just maybe John and/or Elizabeth may want to personally reply to some of the well-wishers. There is no plan to entrap the visitor into coughing up his email address for fund raising spam because the reader is asked for their email address on the intro screen before ever seeing any of the Edwards website content.


Posted by: Marsha H | April 9, 2007 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Maybe I should call and ask you for comment as to why your original story dissembled the facts and did not mention what Corrinne pointed out above.

Do you have a comment on that? Do you have a comment on why your current story still fails to point out that the send a note portion of the website has always been there and that it is not specifically a "sympathy page"?

Posted by: Adam Terando | April 9, 2007 10:44 AM | Report abuse

Edwards is on the rise:

From http://www.solidpolitics.com

According to The State, "the most successful Democratic political consultant in South Carolina" has signed on with John Edwards.... And John Edwards says only a Southerner like him can beat GOP Yankees Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney....

Posted by: William | April 9, 2007 11:50 AM | Report abuse

"You haven't quoted any horrified folks who sent their condolences and thought John Edwards had some nerve asking for their email address."
Posted by: Marsha H | April 9, 2007 10:19 AM
`
Marsha has a good point here. The only people who are upset are Republicans who hate John Edwards anyway.
Mary Ann, this story may be getting you face time on television which is good, but it makes you look petty. Is this really the juiciest gossip you have for us today?

Posted by: Sonofabastard | April 9, 2007 11:52 AM | Report abuse

I was upset that I got solicited for money. Yes, I am a Republican, but I do not hate John Edwards. I would not vote for him for President, but I also hope his wife wins her battle with breast cancer. I entered his site to send Mrs. Edwards good wishes and I ended up getting solicitations for money. Yes, I think that was exploiting the situation for money, and I think it was wrong. I still hope Mrs. Edwards ends up beating the odds, but I am sorry that I chose to send her wishes via her husband's website.

Posted by: Non-hating Republican | April 9, 2007 1:25 PM | Report abuse

The Edwards say there are two worlds in America, the rich and the poor. Of course we knew which world they live in but the clincher is that Mrs. Edwards, from their new 10,000 square foot bungalow and separate indoor basketball court, swimming pool and "own and own and own" (that's NC for on and on)doesn't like her shabby neighbor who lives on has ancestral 42 acres next door, at least that's what the Winston Salem Journal reported this morning. Perhaps his world is made up of the "rich haves" and the "shabby neighbors". Did anyone ever say that about Johnboy's daddy in SC?

Posted by: james | April 9, 2007 1:51 PM | Report abuse

The funniest thing about this post is that Mary Ann Akers thinks anyone gives a good g*dd*mn about anything she reports. Clearly, if the NY Post (that bastion of objective journalism) wrote a similarly misleading and biased piece the day after Mary Ann did, there's no way that she and the Post's rabid right-wingers could've latched onto a non-story tabloid piece like this within a day of each other. It's obviously because the NY Post, as well as the Edwards campaign, are hanging onto Mary Ann's every word. Or something.

Posted by: Lala | April 9, 2007 2:47 PM | Report abuse

This continued slander just displays again why Mary Ann Akers is a blogger and not a legitimate journalist; she lacks the ability to keep her personal agenda from getting in the way of objectivity. If this were an actual story with a by-line, the Washington Post would have to do a ton of retractions and damage control. Even though this is just a blog, one would think that the Washington Post would want to uphold their reputation as a respectable newspaper and refrain from posting such partisan hogwash....oh sorry, I forgot that WP's reputation was sold off long ago.

Posted by: caneiac01 | April 9, 2007 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Oh well - just cancelled my subscription to the WaPo

Posted by: The Boss | April 9, 2007 2:58 PM | Report abuse

So Mary Ann, how long have you been a shill for Hil? You're petty and pathetic.
You should change the caption for your column from "behind the scenes" to "from the sewer".

Posted by: demdiva | April 9, 2007 7:38 PM | Report abuse

You must be so proud that you and the New York Post are seeing eye to eye.

Posted by: MC | April 9, 2007 9:51 PM | Report abuse

like her shabby neighbor who lives on has ancestral 42 acres next door, at least that's what the Winston Salem Journal reported this morning. Perhaps his world is made up of the "rich haves" and the "shabby neighbors". Did anyone ever say that about Johnboy's daddy in SC?

Posted by: james | April 9, 2007 01:51 PM
`
Did Johnboys daddy pull a gun on someone and make other threats.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | April 9, 2007 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Perhaps you should take care to quote the story in the Winston Salem Journal correctly. The comments about the neighbor in question reveal that the comments were made when the neighbor ran off someone investigating an easement with a gun. Whether the neighbor's property is shabby or not is hardly the issue. The man is obviously deranged and a poor neighbor. I wouldn't want to live near him either, nor would any of you, I suspect.

Posted by: Mike C. Miller | April 10, 2007 6:41 AM | Report abuse

At the beginning of your last paragraph, you write: "And now, apparently, they have."

You've spent an entire column describing the change, how it works, etc. So what's up with the "apparently"? Did the change you describe happen? Is it still in the realm of mere rumor? You're looking silly, stirring the pot like this.

Posted by: David K. | April 10, 2007 8:07 AM | Report abuse

Amazing - you still haven't posted a retraction of the blantant inaccuracies in your last post as noted above - that were even pointed out in the NY Post article you cite.

Have the courage and the journalistic integrity to admit your mistakes.

Posted by: okamichan13 | April 10, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

sonofabastard writes:
"Marsha has a good point here. The only people who are upset are Republicans who hate John Edwards anyway.
Mary Ann, this story may be getting you face time on television which is good, but it makes you look petty. Is this really the juiciest gossip you have for us today?"

Far from being petty, I believe Ms. Akers has done the Edwards camp a service by pointing out a situation that would have only caused increasing embarrassment with time.
If this was really such a nothing bit of "gossip" would the Edwards camp have bothered to change their web site?
For better or worse, perception is everything today. The Edwards campaign has benefitted from the positive response to the way John and Elizabeth have dealt with the recurrence of her cancer. Why put that at risk?

Posted by: G Sloan | April 11, 2007 9:28 AM | Report abuse

If this was really such a nothing bit of "gossip" would the Edwards camp have bothered to change their web site?
For better or worse, perception is everything today. The Edwards campaign has benefitted from the positive response to the way John and Elizabeth have dealt with the recurrence of her cancer. Why put that at risk?

Posted by: G Sloan | April 11, 2007 09:28 AM
`
You might be correct, but sometimes the observation is worse than the breach. I honestly have don't know anything about Edwards website except what I read here. His detractors, have been saying since the announcement, that Edwards was using his wife's cancer to further his political ambitions, and this is the proof. That's the bottom line, and it's indecent.
I infer from some previous blogs that Mary Ann's preferred candidate is Fred Thompson. I just read today that he has non-Hodgkins lymphoma. There is only one way to respond to that story. You wish him well.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | April 11, 2007 11:34 AM | Report abuse

Mike Miller may not read the Winston Salem Journal a well as he interprets it. Mrs. Edwards neighbor did not pull a gun on trespassers, though he has every right to do that. He does have a gun. What he did was question the people who trespassed on his property while they worked on the Edwards 20,000 square foot (total counting indoor basketball court et al)bungalow in Chapel Hill. One needs to take care about accusing anyone of pulling a gun on anyone. That would include the Virginia Senator's aid who was carrying the Senator's pistol in a brief case through a "no guns allowed" city, Washington, DC.

Posted by: jake | April 11, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

Mike Miller may not read the Winston Salem Journal a well as he interprets it. Mrs. Edwards neighbor did not pull a gun on trespassers, though he has every right to do that. He does have a gun. What he did was question the people who trespassed on his property ... One needs to take care about accusing anyone of pulling a gun on anyone.

Posted by: jake | April 11, 2007 03:00 PM
`

"Monty Johnson brought out a gun while chasing workers investigating a right of way off his property. The Edwards family has yet to meet Johnson in person."
`
Jake, I guess it depends on your definition of pulling a gun on someone.

Posted by: Sonofabastard | April 11, 2007 4:51 PM | Report abuse

Pathetic.

Posted by: disappointed | April 12, 2007 8:12 AM | Report abuse

I can tell you what I saw on Democratic Underground when DUers were deciding to send flowers or use the money instead for a cancer society donation in her name. Word came back from the Edwards campaign that Elizabeth wanted direct campaign contributions. A real turnoff that was to me. I wouldn't send a red cent and I have contributed to John Edwards in the past.

Posted by: anders | April 12, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

It is interesting to see the reactions of a few individuals. I guess they could lynch Mary-Ann if given a chance. Relax, ladies and gentlemen! The show can get smarter than this!

Posted by: Herbert-Jean Awuor | April 13, 2007 2:40 AM | Report abuse

Your blog post contradicts itself. It's not an "opt-out" option. It's an opt-in option. An opt-out option would be to press a link to unsubscribe to a mailing list.

Why are you so obviously spinning this?

Posted by: Dick Tuck | April 13, 2007 10:38 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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