News Sites Are Renting Your Inbox to Spammy Political Groups

Mother Jones, The Daily Caller, and other news sites make money by selling access to your inbox to political groups that want your donations.

News Sites Are Renting Your Inbox to Spammy Political Groups

Have you found solicitations in your inbox from scammy-seeming political groups that you never signed up for? There are many ways these groups may have gotten your email—campaign finance data shows dozens of obscure data brokerage companies like Fluent LLC and Preferred Communications that get paid millions to rent lists to political campaigns and PACs. But another way is that you may have subscribed to a news outlet’s newsletter and then that news company turned around and rented your personal information to a campaign or political party.

Federal Election Commission records reveal that political news companies including Mother Jones, The Daily Caller, Breitbart, The Nation, and The Daily Wire are being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars each year by campaigns and other political groups for access to their email lists. 

On the Democratic side of things, Mother Jones has been paid more than $218,000 since January 2017 by liberal political groups for list rental, including End Citizens United, National Democratic Training Committee, and Democratic Strategy Institute. All of the groups that rent Mother Jones’ lists employ Mothership Strategies, a firm founded by former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) employees that has often been criticized for its misleading and abusive email tactics. Mother Jones’ affiliated nonprofit, the Foundation for National Progress, has been paid by the DCCC for list rental. The news site allows political customers to email ads to its subscribers that direct them to landing pages where their contact information will be swept up by the paying group. 

The Nation Company has collected more than $232,000 from list rentals to political campaigns and groups since 2017. Its list-rental customers are the same three groups: End Citizens United, National Democratic Training Committee, and Democratic Strategy Institute. Similar to Mother Jones, The Nation subscribers receive emails from the company’s political customers that seek to get readers to offer up their contact info.   

Among conservative outlets, Ben Shapiro’s website the Daily Wire is making the most money by renting lists to political groups. The company has been paid $900,000 for its lists since 2017, all by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) besides a $5,000 rental fee that was paid by Mike Huckabee’s PAC and $18,600 that Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s campaign paid earlier this year. One political blogger pointed out in May that after signing up for Shapiro’s newsletter they immediately began receiving donation request emails from NRCC that were designed to look like they were coming from Donald Trump. The Daily Wire’s privacy policy says it may sell personal information to “affiliates and Advertising Partners to provide you with online advertising and other information that may be relevant to you, including for their own marketing purposes.”

The NRCC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) have paid the Tucker Carlson-founded The Daily Caller $222,000 to rent its lists since January 2017. Breitbart collected $55,000 in list rental fees from the NRSC since 2017, and $12,000 from Bold Conservatives PAC, a PAC formed by attorney Jack Daly that paid Daly $588,812 in the 2018 election cycle and has been identified by OpenSecrets as a scam PAC for spending a large share of its money raised on fundraising and salaries. 

This article was originally published at Brick House Cooperative.

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