In the increasingly digital world of politics, email has become a crucial communication tool for reaching voters, donors, and volunteers. However, it’s essential to remember that not all email is created equal. The rules that govern commercial email apply to political campaigns. The primary regulation in this domain is the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act. Here’s a closer look at what navigating CAN-SPAM means for your campaign and how to stay compliant:
The CAN-SPAM Act, enacted in 2003, sets rules for commercial email messages, establishes requirements for commercial messages, gives recipients the right to stop emails, and lays out tough penalties for violations. Although the law was not explicitly designed for political campaigns, its implications for any organization – including campaigns – that send out bulk email are profound.
Key Elements of Navigating CAN-SPAM for Campaigns
To comply with the CAN-SPAM Act, political campaigns must observe the following:
Clear and Conspicuous Identification: All emails must clearly state that they are an advertisement or solicitation, except when recipients have given prior affirmative consent.
Valid Physical Postal Address: Each email must include a valid physical postal address for the sender. This can be a current street address, a post office box registered with the U.S. Postal Service, or a private mailbox registered with a commercial mail receiving agency.
Truthful Subject Lines: Misleading subject lines are a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
Opt-Out Mechanism: Every email must contain a clear and conspicuous explanation of how the recipient can opt-out of receiving future emails from the sender.
The Consequences of Non-Compliance
Non-compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act can lead to severe penalties, including hefty fines. But the consequences don’t stop at financial penalties. Non-compliance can also result in damaged campaign reputation, reduced email deliverability, and strained relationships with supporters.
Ensuring Compliance in Your Campaign
So how can your campaign stay on the right side of the CAN-SPAM Act?
Respect Opt-Out Requests: When a recipient opts out, remove them from your email list promptly – within ten business days, as mandated by the law.
Monitor Third Parties: If you hire a third party to handle your email marketing, remember that your campaign is still legally responsible for compliance. Ensure your vendors are informed and respectful of the law.
Regular Training: Provide regular training to your staff about the importance of navigating CAN-SPAM compliance and how to ensure all communications adhere to the law.
Political campaigns, like any other organizations using email for outreach, must adhere to the CAN-SPAM Act. It’s not just a legal necessity – it’s also a matter of respect for your supporters and an essential part of maintaining a positive campaign reputation. Stay informed, be proactive, and ensure your campaign’s communications stay on the right side of the law.