I Can't Unsubscribe from Ted Cruz's Mailing List, and the FTC Says That's OK

Political newsletters don’t fall under the CAN-SPAM Act

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Jul 17 2015, 10:30pm

Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

In March, I wrote about how Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz doesn't know how to internet, citing his backwards views on net neutrality and other online mishaps. In the following weeks, the thesis of my article was further proven when I realized I had somehow been signed up for his email listserv, receiving periodic alerts about his campaign events and other news signed by his "national political director."

It's unclear how these emails, always signed with "For liberty," started appearing in my inbox. My theory is that anyone who reaches out through his generic contact page, which I did, is automatically signed up for his email newsletter (A spokesperson for Ted Cruz said he was "not sure" if this is the case).

Screenshot by Kari Paul

Although the emails are not that frequent or intrusive, it's fairly irritating to have been put on a list I never signed up for, and I've clicked "unsubscribe" at least twice with no luck. This got me wondering, is it illegal to not remove me from an email listserv after I request to be?

According to the Federal Trade Commission, not necessarily. The CAN-SPAM Act, a law passed in 2003 that essentially establishes what is spam, does require that opt-out requests be honored "promptly." However, according to Christopher Brown, an attorney at the FTC with the division of marketing practices, these rules don't apply to political newsletters.

"Listservs are not exempt from the act if the emails are commercial in nature, but If the primary purpose isn't an advertisement then the CAN-SPAM act isn't going to apply to the emails in question," he said.

He added that he can't speak about Ted Cruz specifically, but said in general an email from a candidate announcing his political views or campaign events would not be considered commercial and therefore would be allowed under the act.

Emails that are commercial in nature can be forwarded to spam@uce.gov for review. "If there is a certain number of emails, or it's something particularly egregious we will investigate," Brown said.

The representative I spoke to from Cruz's campaign said he would look into the issue, but as it stands, Cruz could apparently send me thousands of emails and it would be perfectly legal under this specific act. But please, Ted, if you're reading this, take me off your listserv.