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Another Look at Campaign Emails

By Eric Richardson
Published: Friday, March 25, 2005, at 07:52AM

Back in February I took a look at two campaign emails over on my site. Yesterday after returning from Hahn's NC meeting I received an email his campaign sent to NC representatives. Titled, "My Plan to Give More Power to Neighborhood Councils," it touted the same things he had presented at the meeting earlier in the day. Content-wise there's not much new to speak of. Technically, though, this is one awful email.

Being somewhat of a luddite, I still use a text email client. I just like it that way. But this text-based world runs into conflict when it comes to HTML mail, or email that is made to be formatted using the same markup as are websites. I'm not going to get into the reasons I think HTML mail is evil here, but usually this isn't an issue because mail clients are perfectly capable of sending an email that contains content in both text and in HTML. This is called a multipart message; the email client simply chooses the portion of the message it is most capable of viewing.

When I opened up Mayor Hahn's email what I saw was about sixty lines of garbled junk that looked like HTML sent through a blender. I thought he had made the poor choice of sending an email that just contained HTML, and that I was simply seeing a bad representation of it. Turns out that's not the case. What I was seeing was the identified "text/plain" copy, which in reality was anything but. The text was there in between mounds of not-even code, but even Hahn's name was missing at the bottom of the letter (where in the HTML version I see that there's an image of his signature).

The HTML version is made with some ugly code, but I'm sure it at least displays reasonably in HTML mail clients. In my case, I tried piping it into lynx, a text-mode browser, and got this at the letter's close:

Very truly yours,

jim.jpg

Needless to say, I'm not impressed with the letter technically, so let's look at how it was sent. For his site Hahn uses Constituents Direct, so that's where the images get loaded from. The message itself was sent through politicalsystems.net, which it appears is simply Constituents Direct's legal name (Political Systems, LLC). I approve of Hahn using a local company to do his mailings, but Political Systems is in Beverly Hills, not the city of Los Angeles.

In this day and age it amazes me that in a race of this stature the candidates would not be using people who understand how to dot their i's and cross their t's when it comes to the Internet. It's not like any of this is hard; accomodation simply takes an attention to detail. As I said in the above-linked review from February, the emails I've received from Antonio's campaign have been extremely well done. The emails from the others... well, they haven't been.

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