Obama campaign uses birthday e-card to harvest email addresses

Join @MichelleObama and wish the President a happy birthday: http://t.co/Lc8hZizg

— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) July 27, 2012

@BarackObama wants us to wish President Barack Obama a happy birthday.  Check out the Normal Rockwellesque-style photo featuring First Lady Michelle Obama holding a giant birthday cake that obviously does not meet federal nutrition standards. How cute and sweet and lovable!

But the intent of this “birthday card” is not what it seems.

Anyone who fills out the card thinking he or she is simply wishing President Obama a happy 51st birthday is immediately whisked away to a page asking for a campaign donation:

Well, you don’t have to donate. But, alas, you’ve already given the campaign your email address. Under its “privacy policy,” the Obama campaign reveals how it plans to use it:

  • to send you newsletters and otherwise provide you with information or services you request or that we think will be of interest to you, such as sending you information to keep you informed about various campaigns, candidates, issues, events, resources, promotions, contests, products and services;
  • to help manage the campaign and to connect you with other supporters, and to solicit volunteers, donations and support for OFA and for candidates, issues and organizations that we support;
  • to remind you to send in your voter registration form and to vote;
  • to assist you in finding your registration information, polling location, and campaign events near you[.]

Michelle Obama’s name is being used to further the deceptive ploy:

Michelle Obama just sent me an email asking me to sign Barack’s birthday card. Aw, we’re all BFF now! Wait, you want MONEY TOO?

— jennifer bendery (@jbendery) July 27, 2012

First Lady Michelle Obama: Sign the president’s birthday card! Buried lede: Oh, and a little money wouldn’t hurt while you’re at it.

— Sabrina Siddiqui (@SabrinaSiddiqui) July 27, 2012

The Obama campaign has used this gambit before. In one case, it used a Mother’s Day greeting card to tout Obamacare.  It’s standard operating procedure.

If a candidate for public office wants to openly request contributions and e-mail addresses for its campaign database, that is perfectly unobjectionable. But using cute greeting cards as a ruse to harvest email addresses and solicit campaign donations strikes us as a bit underhanded.

Some Twitter users (presumably Obama supporters) seem to agree:

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Obama. I go to sign your birthday card and you ASK for MONEY. That’s not how it works.

— Brittany Schray (@brittanyschray) July 28, 2012

I can sign Barrack Obama’s Birthday Card… so long as I donate to his campaign. ….

— Christopher Kusek (@cxi) July 28, 2012

Yes, I did sign a birthday card 4 President Obama b/c a campaign ad convinced me to do so. Yes, I do know it is just a ploy to get my email.

— Kathleen Farah (@kathleenfarah) July 23, 2012