So you like the President. He's a likable guy, right? And online there is an opportunity to send a nice thought his way, or so it seems. Just sign a card with your email and zip code (required) and your name (optional), and you are done. There are even different versions available from which you could choose. What could be easier than that? 
No, this is not something new. The Obamas and DNC have been using this tactic for several years now. There are many articles from 2010 that cover the push to sign a virtual birthday card for Barack. At the time, Michelle Obama was quoted, " 'Every year, our family tries to come up with a fun way to wish Barack a happy birthday," Obama said in an e-mail to political supporters. "And this Aug. 4th, when he turns 49, I have something new in mind.' " Yet, here we are 2 years later with the exact same thing in play. 

I try very hard not to prejudge, which is easy to do. I assumed this was merely a campaign gimmick, but I wanted to see what would happen if I did sign the card. So I entered the obligatory information and clicked the button. What I discovered on the next screen only served to support my initial opinion. I was directed to a page that thanked me for signing the card- in a very small font at the top. Next it stated, "This campaign belongs to you. How large we grow, how far we reach, how successful we become—it's all up to what you do. Let's re-elect the President. Make a donation today." The majority of the screen is filled with a picture of the president and contributor information I can fill out complete with buttons for a preset amount (or I can fill in a box), credit card information, employer information, and a very large donate button. At the bottom is a list of statements that I am supposed to confirm are true & accurate (in order to protect the Obama Victory Fund) and an explanation of how contributions are used. 

                                        Contributions or gifts to Obama Victory Fund 2012 are not tax deductible.
              The first $5,000 of a contribution to OVF 2012 will be allocated to Obama for America (with the first $2,500 designated for the primary  election, and the next $2,500 for the general election). The next $30,800 of a contribution will be allocated to the Democratic National Committee. Any additional amounts from a contributor will be divided among the State Democratic Party Committees as follows, up to $10,000 per committee and subject to the biennial aggregate limits: FL (17%); OH (16%); PA (13); CO (11%); NC (11%); VA (11%); NV (6%); WI (6%); IA (5%); and NH (4%). A contributor may designate his or her contribution for a particular participant. The allocation formula above may change if following it would result in an excessive contribution. Contributions will be used in connection with a Federal election. Contributions to OVF 2012 may be spent on any activities of the participant committees as each committee determines in its sole discretion and will not be earmarked for any particular candidate.  

The electronic card signing must be successful in filling out the campaign databases and garnering donations. There have been similar cards in the past such as the one for Father's Day (pictured below) and another for Mother's Day, Michelle's birthday, holidays and so on. 

Not a fan of cards? You can join the Obama Event Registry. The page asks, "Got a special milestone or event coming up? Instead of another gift card you’ll forget to use, ask your friends and family for something that will go a little further: a donation to Obama for America. Register your next celebration—whether it’s a birthday, bar or bat mitzvah, wedding, or anniversary—with the Obama campaign. It’s a great way to show your support for a cause that’s important to you on your big day." Just create an account, and you can customize your own page. I'm not sure I have ever heard of or seen such a thing from other politicians. I am probably wrong of course, but this takes the cake in my opinion.

So why does this bother me? After all, running for office, especially that of president, is expensive, and candidates have to raise money in order to support their campaigns. Additionally, one could assume that most people would or should understand that this is only such an effort. Unfortunately, assumptions are usually incorrect. There are many people who are easily misled or manipulated, and this type of solicitation preys on that. If you examine the wording, the pictures, the way these messages are portrayed, you can see how easy it might be for someone to misconstrue the true purpose. For example, all of the messages use informal and personal language such as addressing the president and first lady by their first names. The pictures, although they are recycled publicity shots, seem to be warm and inviting. However, there is absolutely no clear or explicit warning on the digital card that states its true purpose, data mining for campaign solicitations. (You can read the privacy policy if you choose, but it contains the usual jargon many people ignore.)   

Ok, so maybe the individual does sign the card aware that it is a fundraising effort. Maybe he or she chooses to donate to help the 2012 campaign. Maybe he or she really wants to ensure that the president wins and donates a large amount of his or her savings- $45,000. The individual enters payment information and sits back satisfied that he or she has, as the site puts it, " large we grow, how far we reach, how successful we become—it's all up to what you do. Let's re-elect the President." But wait, there is a problem with that. If the individual has not read the fine print at the bottom of the donation form, he or she may not be aware that only $5,000 goes to the Obama campaign. That is a little over 10%. The rest is divided with approximately 64% going to the DNC and the remainder to specific state committees. (See above) Of course I am exaggerating here. It is highly unlikely that an individual would donate more than $5000 online. I am sure most of the donations are very small indeed. Nevertheless, it is the principle of the issue that annoys me.

In short, I am always skeptical, especially when it comes to politicians. I mean honestly, have you ever seen something that did not have a hidden, or at least misleading, agenda behind it? As Lynn Sweet so adequately describes it, "The Obama 2012 campaign--a data driven enterprise-- posted a birthday card for Mrs. Obama and asking people to sign it; a technique used to develop supporter or potential supporter engagement, gather updated contact information, find out which app was the most effective, and what parts of the country responded to the appeal." I feel sorry for those who sign the card actually believing that the president will receive their messages. I feel sorry for those who inadvertently provide their personal email only to be bombarded later by the campaign. I feel sorry for those who are beguiled into donating to this campaign thinking that all of their donation goes directly to support the president when in reality the majority of it goes to the DNC and may be used to support a candidate in another part of the country. And I am waiting with baited breath for the solicitations to begin rolling into my inbox.
Father's Day 2012

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    Who am I? Just an average woman living an average life. There are many labels I would use to define myself: mom, wife, daughter, student, educator, American, etc. I have no professional experience nor am I claiming to be a writer. Sometimes I am brushing up on some skills I will need when I return to academia, and sometimes I am just sharing or venting.  


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