A shocking “Discover”y, and related lessons

First, one apology (of two) to my readers. I have been aware of this for about a year. I originally sat on this for a while because the relevant lawsuit was pending. I continued to sit on it because I felt an appeal and/or a new trial was pending, which would have been another three months or so. I have little excuse for sitting on it after 2015 October 1. (This should have been posted no later than the end of 2015 September.) On one hand I don’t like posting stale news; on the other, the only thing worse than posting this late is not posting it at all.

(The second apology will be made in context.)

Rewind to the summer of 2012. Specifically, 2012 August 15. A good month and a half had transpired since my reply to whoever was behind “admin@wordcamphouston.com” with nothing but radio silence. I had received a reply to the third message I sent regarding the financial statement from WordCamp Houston 2010 and who received the scholarship (well, and also what became of the video that was shot of the breakout sessions, but that’s not what this is about). The reply I got merely stated “Thanks for your inquiry, please look for information to be announced regarding the scholarship later this year.” (Again, along with a reply about the status of the video, but I have covered that already.)

Fast forward to early 2015 (I unfortunately don’t have an exact date, but it was well before July). I’m punching some names of people into public records websites as part of an unrelated project, and seeing if I find anything I don’t yet know but should. I finish with the names I had originally planned to look up and move on to some other names. One of those names happens to be Monica Danna (now Danna-Garcia), former WordCamp Houston organizer. What comes up is shocking, in at least two ways, which I’ll get to shortly.

What I found was that Ms. Danna had been sued by Discover Bank for an unpaid credit card debt, in the amount of $12,758.21. The first shock is the amount of the lawsuit, and at first I figured this credit card debt had been run up over a period of about five years or so. When I attended the trial setting on 2015 July 7, I found out the card had only been issued sometime in 2010 (I didn’t take notes, but pretty sure it was in the first half of the year, before the WordCamp Houston 2010 event date), which was perhaps the bigger shock of the two.

One of my original reasons for attending the trial date was largely curiosity on seeing how well the defense presented by Ms. Danna’s attorney, Robert Hinsley, would hold up. Also, I have not really observed that many court trials in real life (really, none of substance from start to finish save the one time I was actually picked for a jury).

As originally stated, I had originally intended to post immediately after the trial date, though that changed once the “trial” had taken place. Counselor Hinsley didn’t make it to the trial due to a medical emergency. (Whether that would have changed the outcome is a matter of debate.) Given that Discover had flown in a witness from Delaware the judge went ahead and allowed the witness’s testimony to be entered on the record so a default judgment could be issued. (Civil cases are decided by a preponderance of the evidence, and a preponderance means there has to be something there for the plaintiff to win.) That was on 2015 July 7. No developments occurred as of the last time I checked; the motions (to set aside the verdict and for a new trial) appear to have been denied and I can’t find any appeals, so it would appear to yours truly, technically a layperson but with a bit higher than average knowledge of law, that this case is a done deal.

With that said, let’s rewind a bit. Before I get into this, I have absolutely nothing to show that there was a plot to steal the WordCamp Houston 2010 proceeds in full, by any of the organizers. I wish I had the proverbial “smoking gun” (smoking credit card?) to show that was the case. But I don’t.

The proceeds from WordCamp Houston 2010 totaled $2,790.30. Take the balance at the time of the lawsuit, $12,758.21. Doing a web search for ‘Discover card minimum payment’ finds a typical minimum payment is the greater of $40 or 2% of the balance.

The responsible thing to do, when trusted by the community to handle money properly in such a situation, is full disclosure and full transparency from start to finish. To this day I have no clue whether or not the money was commingled with personal funds of one or more of the organizers (which it most certainly should not have been), or separated into another account as it should have been. A simple “hey, we still need to find a recipient for the scholarship,we didn’t get any nominees in August” would have helped. Even if a year of searching had been fruitless, how about “hey, the money is still safe and in a separate account, here is the (partially redacted) bank statement” or something like that?

And here’s where some of the lessons to be learned come in. First, my failure. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: stupid me, I trusted Ms. Danna, Mr. Valdez, Ms. Laird, and Mr. Everson to do the right thing, and keep the word given by Ms. Danna on the video-recorded introduction to the keynote speech in 2010. So much so, that my first message merely asked for the financial statement and what happened to the video. I decided to think like the rest of the community, and trust that the right thing had already been done. The moral of the story, again, is be careful who you trust and never assume someone will do the right thing, even if their history is impeccable. I still regret not jumping on this sooner. I hold myself to high standards, and my lack of pursuit of transparency of the financial end of WordCamp Houston 2010 until quite some time had passed is, to say the least, a departure from those standards. I am grateful the money did eventually find its way to a deserving college student. That doesn’t change the fact I still feel it’s completely unacceptable for it to have taken over two years.

Second, it should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: if you default on a credit card owing enough money, you will get sued! At the very least, even if you are not sued, your credit report and credit score will take a hit, and you may find your borrowing ability suffering for years. So, with that in mind, don’t borrow money you cannot afford to pay back. Realistically wouldn’t expect to get sued for a credit card debt under about $1,000, but as the amount goes up, the odds go up considerably; for a default on $10,000 or higher, I’d call a lawsuit a certainty.

Now, I will admit I haven’t been perfect here; without giving away too many details, what’s on my credit report currently is close to average, but as recently as 5 to 6 years ago, it was an entirely different story. I’ve never been in a position where I was likely to get sued, though, nor have I had to file bankruptcy. Neither are a good time from what I have heard and observed.

To those of you getting your first credit cards, here is my advice (based on both my mistakes and those of others): Use as little credit as you possibly can. Ideally, pay your cards in full every month and carry a balance only if you have absolutely no other choice. Pay on time, every time, with good funds. Late payment and returned payment fees are expensive, especially on top of a 20%+ APR. Annual fees can also get expensive; shop around every few months, and replace cards charging outrageous annual fees with ones that don’t. I’ll break this down into further detail in a post later in February, but these are the most important points for now.

This may seem like a very tardy post, and some may consider it to be beating the proverbial greasy spot where the dead horse used to be. I disagree. Learning of the lawsuit, and reading (and later re-reading) all the documents in the case file, gave me a newfound appreciation for just how lucky we were and are as a community. I am certain now that had I not spoken up when I did, my failure to do so would have haunted me for years.

Yes, this still angers me even though the actual scholarship award was three years ago. You can use whatever comparison you want, say it may as well be 10, 20, 30 years ago, a century ago, in some year BCE, the jurassic era… whatever. It really doesn’t matter to me, this may as well have been last week or even yesterday. I believe strongly in the saying of George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (More often said as “those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” and similar forms, but the sentiment is the same.)

An attempt to squelch

So, I would hope by now most of you saw my exposé on WordCamp Houston which wound up focusing specifically on the scholarship money (what wound up being $2,790.30, finally awarded in late January). If not, it’s still there, waiting to be read. Anyway, if you have read it, you might have thought I was done talking about that, the still-effectively-dead Meetup group, and certain people involved with same. Yes? Seriously?

Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not. I thought I was, but I’m not. And in a larger sense, I won’t be for quite some time. There’s more to be said. People want me to shut up, but that’s not happening. I will not be squelched.

First, I want to lay out some facts that some of you may not know and put them in context, mostly how they relate to this blog. My first posts to this blog were made on 2008 December 15, some four years and change ago. Over the next few months I rapidly settled into a groove of talking about current events and things that I found interesting, felt were outrageous, or maybe just pissed me off for one reason or another. Time went on, and I started taking on more and more politically-oriented topics. It could be said this is now a political blog which occasionally goes off on a technology or sports tangent now and again.

When someone becomes a public figure (whether all-purpose public figure or limited public figure), the threshold for legally actionable defamation against that person changes. To win a defamation suit, a private figure only needs to prove negligence. However, a public figure also needs to prove actual malice, which is one of two things: knowingly publishing a lie, or acting with a reckless disregard for the truth. I believe anyone in politics, not only as candidate, but also working in campaigns as a social media consultant, event planner, treasurer, campaign manager, or any combination of the above, would fall into the latter category of public figure. I believe anyone who has organized an event like a WordCamp would at least qualify as a limited purpose public figure.

If you read that and you’re thinking “holy cow, he just described Monica Danna” then you see where I’m going already. If not, then yeah, I just gave it away. That’s exactly where I was going. For those that are unaware, Ms. Danna was involved with Bill White’s campaign for governor in 2010, as well as her father’s campaign for Harris County Precinct 1 Constable in 2012.

If I was talking about any other campaign treasurer or campaign manager, whether it be in Harris County, some other county in Texas, some other state in the US, or even some other country on this great big rock we call planet Earth, there wouldn’t even be an issue.

“But wait a minute, Shawn, those campaigns are over, so why don’t you stuff a sock in it already?” I hear you asking. Not so fast. It seems reasonable to me, at least, to infer from the past that Ms. Danna will, at some point in the near future, be a part of a political campaign again in some form.

So now maybe you’re saying: “Okay, Shawn, so how about you stuff a sock in it until she’s actually involved with a campaign again?” Well, I would, but there’s more to it than that. By her involvement with WordCamp Houston 2010 as organizer, Ms. Danna also made herself a limited public figure for the purposes of the Houston WordPress community. The WordCamp Houston 2010 keynote as recorded on UStream (now only available via the BitTorrent magnet link if you want to download a copy, as the Ustream copy is now long gone) is ample evidence of that, by itself (notwithstanding at least two breakout sessions where she spoke at the event, which we don’t have video of for whatever reasons). It also happens that the poor handling of the scholarship money, lack of communication, and dishonesty would be at least somewhat relevant to judging the trustworthiness of a political campaign treasurer, and by extension the candidate’s judgment.

It doesn’t end with WordCamp Houston 2010. Ms. Danna was also caught writing a review on Yelp of one of her clients, Azur Salon. I wish I had reported it sooner than I actually did, but yes, I’m the person who reported the review, which has since been taken down for “violating [Yelp’s] Content Guidelines or Terms of Services.” Posting a review with an obvious conflict of interest is arguably the biggest no-no possible on Yelp, and is a textbook example of unethical practice of public relations.

Lest this be dismissed as an isolated incident, some time after the Yelp review was pulled, Ms. Danna chose yet again to break common-sense PR rules against conflict of interest, this time on Google+ with a review of Primer Grey (evidence available on request), which her former company Colab shared office space with up until its demise about a year ago. As critical as I have been of Google at times in the past, this is one case where they have earned praise, as my report of this TOS violation was acted on within two business days. A true PR professional would know this was a conflict of interest and unethical to post, even if not codified as against the terms of service, content guidelines, etc of the service in question. (Unfortunately, my situation at the time precluded keeping a close enough eye on the non-compliant Yelp review to get an accurate time of action relative to my report, so I can’t make a fair comparison.)

I have acted with a careful regard for the truth, I have never intentionally published a lie, and I have always been willing to correct errors in fact. You can look as hard as you want for negligence, you won’t find it here. You certainly won’t find actual malice, but you’re welcome to look. I honestly feel like I would have been sued by now were there grounds for a lawsuit.

Make no mistake about it, I have the right to say what I did about Monica Danna. In a more general sense, I have the right to talk about anyone of a similarly high profile. I believe the public has a right to know that someone who has held themselves out as a professional event planner fell far short of that, at least based on my experience. Also, the public has a right to know that this same person felt completely comfortable taking a political campaign treasurer position while still sitting on event proceeds earmarked for award as a college scholarship, with a pattern of conduct that (at least to me) appeared highly suspicious and indicative of a plan to “take the money and run” at some point (no offense intended to Steve Miller Band fans).

Further, I have the same right to talk about Chris Valdez, who has worked with Ms. Danna regularly in the past. Mr. Valdez’s day job at Primer Grey revolves around the trust of clients to keep their websites secure and available (i.e. online and serving only the content they are supposed to be, not malware). The public has the right to know that the security of the wordcamphouston.com website was neglected while business related to the event was outstanding, and that for at least five months the website showed a malware warning screen in Firefox. While I am willing to concede that Mr. Valdez keeps a somewhat lower profile outside of the Houston WordPress community, I believe within it his profile is high enough to be considered at the least a limited purpose public figure.

I have the same right to talk about Christopher Smith. My reasoning for asserting my right to talk about Mr. Smith, however, is a bit different and comes in direct rebuttal to fraudulent assertions he has made as the nominal “organizer” of the Houston WordPress Meetup. On one hand Mr. Smith said “this is your Meetup group too.” That was in 2011. Fast forward about a year and Mr. Smith thinks nothing of going AWOL for most of a year and not leaving a competent and willing co-organizer in charge who is willing to actually announce legitimate, confirmed meetups to the rest of the group. Yes, my name was on them as the person who first entered them on the Meetup.com website. But that’s completely irrelevant for whether or not they should have been announced. Mr. Smith’s profile is also high enough to be considered a limited purpose public figure.

Honestly, it says a lot about the character of Mr. Smith that he is willing to just all of a sudden come back to a meetup group he abandoned for nearly a year, and worse, return like it’s only been a week or two. If the group truly belongs to the community, Mr. Smith would have resigned as organizer by now. Paying $19 per month to Meetup.com does not make one a leader. In fact, in this case (like many others that happen on Meetup.com), just paying the organizer dues and remaining absent was one of the worst things Mr. Smith (or anyone else in the organizer position) could have done to the Houston WordPress community. A responsible organizer would have stepped aside within the first six months, and let someone else take over. (This is, coincidentally, just what Jenia Lazslo did when she could no longer run the group.)

What really makes my blood boil, however, is that this is a guy that wanted to run WordCamp Houston in 2012! Worse yet, WordCamp Central almost let him! Get real! (I’m glad nobody gave him a venue. Personally, I think we are better off as a community not having had a WordCamp in 2012, than having had one under Mr. Smith’s “leadership.”)

If Christopher Smith, Chris Valdez, Monica Danna, or for that matter anyone else out there, feels their safety is threatened by my revelation of uncomfortable truths, such as lies told to and unethical actions towards the community, the logical thing to do in response is to stop lying and/or start acting in a more ethical fashion. If the meetup group truly belonged to the community, and was not just an extension of the personal ego of Christopher Smith, I’d still be in it. It’s so obvious that my removal from the meetup group online was retaliation for speaking out and letting the truth be known about unethical, unprofessional, and unbecoming conduct by Mr. Valdez and Ms. Danna.

Before I wind up this post, I’m going to address something brought up by some friends recently. One of the comments on a prior related post was read to imply by its wording that volunteers should be given a “free pass” to do a poor job. I can’t confirm that’s what the original poster meant at the moment.

Let’s consider a similar, hypothetical situation: A professional truck driver with a CDL (commerical driver’s license) is driving his/her personal vehicle (say, a mid-size sedan) as a volunteer for a non-profit. During his volunteer duties, this driver gets a traffic ticket. In Texas at least, the driver would be stuck paying the fine as CDL drivers aren’t allowed to take the driver safety course. In some others states the driver may even be looking at immediately losing his/her job for a while due to a license suspension. Is it unreasonable to hold the driver to the same higher standards of any other CDL driver even though he/she is a volunteer in a non-commercial vehicle at the time of the accident?

Another similar situation: While driving home from work, an off-duty professional EMT happens upon the scene of a traffic accident before the (paid) EMTs arrive. He/she is of course protected by the same “Good Samaritan” laws that you or I would be. Is it unreasonable to hold the EMT to a higher standard than you or I would be held? (Certainly, a “screw it, I’m not on the clock” mentality is unacceptable at least this case.)

How about a CPA who also serves as a volunteer treasurer for a non-profit? Is it acceptable for the books to be off by a few more bucks because the treasurer is a volunteer? Is it not unreasonable to expect better from someone whose day job is attention to financial details?

You get the idea. I don’t think it should be all that different for event planners and public relations counsel working in their field as volunteers.

In closing:

I restate and renew my previous objections to Christopher Smith, Chris Valdez, and Monica Danna holding themselves out as Houston WordPress community leaders, and I ask should cease doing so immediately.

I believe it is not appropriate for Christopher Smith, Chris Valdez, or Monica Danna to be organizing, sponsoring, presenting at, or volunteering at WordCamp Houston 2013, or for that matter, any other WordCamp anywhere else for at least the immediate future.

My attendance at Houston WordPress community events of which the aforementioned trio are nominal organizers should not be construed as endorsement of their past, present, or future involvement. My absence from those same events, on the other hand, is likely due to retaliation for spreading the uncomfortable truth (especially when I have announced my intentions to attend). As a notable exception to this rule, tonight I was unable to attend due to an entirely unrelated reason. It was my intent yesterday morning (Wednesday, 2013 May 8) to be there yesterday evening.

The truth is that I care a lot more about the Houston WordPress community. My involvement with the Houston WordPress community goes back to at least 2009 November 30 — weeks before Ms. Danna even thought of organizing WordCamp Houston 2010, weeks Mr. Valdez joined the organizing team, and months before the meetups began. To the best of my knowledge, I am the only remaining community leader who can claim involvement going back that far; everyone else has left Houston, left the local WordPress community, or both.

Sometimes the truth is uncomfortable. One reasonable response, when one finds the truth about oneself to be uncomfortable, is to change the truth going forward. It is certainly not a reasonable response to try to squelch the truth.

I will not be squelched.

[Edit 2021-08-24: Ustream was bought by IBM long ago and they have apparently wiped most archived content.]

The #seriouslymcdonalds incident: a lesson about racism and hoaxes

It is rare I read a story and find it’s so engrossing, so demanding of my attention, that I feel I need to drop everything and blog about it now. This is one of those stories.

A recent Mashable article highlights the latest hoax making the rounds on Twitter (and probably other social media as well) under the hastag #seriouslymcdonalds. It’s a sign posted with official-looking McDonald’s branding (NOTE: Please DO NOT call the number, it DOES NOT belong to McDonald’s):


As an insurance measure due in part to a recent string of robberies, African-American customers are now required to pay an additional fee of $1.50 per transaction.

Thank you for your cooperation,
McDonald’s Corporation
(800) 225-5532

Now, this is an obvious hoax, and it’s obvious because that toll-free number rings a KFC guest relations line. That, and as the reporter for Mashable noted, “[i]t would be career suicide” for a real McDonald’s franchisee or employee to tape this on the door.

Whoever posted this fake sign will undoubedly incur the fully justified wrath of not just one, but two large fast food companies: McDonald’s, and Yum! Brands (which owns KFC), in the form of swift and decisive legal action. If nothing else, this is fraud and trademark infringement. This is a huge PR mess for McDonald’s, which will probably cost them well into five figures (US$10,000+) to clean up. Add to this the time KFC’s call center people will have to waste answering calls from angry customers, and it’s easy to see how the guilty party deserves to get sued.

So, not only is this a tort involving two large fast-food corporations, this was in such poor taste it doesn’t even qualify as a good prank. I, for one, am not laughing. Racism, particularly reinforcing stereotypes that African-Americans are more likely to commit crimes, is not funny. Whoever you are that posted this sign: Shame on you. You deserve to be sued into bankruptcy, and I hope it happens.

According to the story on Mashable, an official reply from the corporate offices is pending. I will follow up on this as I learn more.

The fox in the henhouse, cyberspace edition

Again, before I get into discussing exactly what this email is about, I need to lay down the background on who’s who and what’s what. Otherwise, it’s easy for one to gloss over all of this and assume it doesn’t affect oneself, when in reality this potentially affects or could affect a large chunk of the users of the Internet.

In the beginning, there was the original Unix, AT&T Unix. The University of California at Berkeley made their own version of Unix based on AT&T’s code and called it BSD. There exist today several different operating systems that came from the original BSD code; FreeBSD, NetBSD, OpenBSD, DragonFly BSD, etc. Due to its liberal license, code from BSD was used in many places; instead of writing their own software for Internet connectivity (the TCP/IP stack, for those who know what that is), Microsoft adapted the one from BSD. Apple Mac OS X also uses software adapted from FreeBSD and NetBSD, which also traces its lineage back to the original BSD. Many GNU/Linux distributions also use software which came from BSD. Put simply, it is likely somewhere your computer has some software on it somewhere which originally came from BSD.

Of particular note in the BSD-derived operating systems is OpenBSD. The OpenBSD project was started by Theo de Raadt as a fork of NetBSD originally due to conflicts with the latter project’s leadership back in 1995. The focus of OpenBSD became security, and today many consider it the most secure operating system on the planet.

OpenBSD has software built into it to implement IPsec, which appears to have been started in the latter half of 1997. Theo de Raadt recently received an email from Gregory Perry. Gregory was working with a company called NETSEC and helped arrange funding for the OpenBSD Crypto Framework, upon which the IPsec software is based. The email, which Theo forwarded to the tech@openbsd.org mailing list, contains a rather direct accusation that developers accepted money from the FBI to weaken the IPsec software in OpenBSD (specifically, to add “backdoors” to it intended for FBI use).

The full email is archived on marc.info, and also implies that this sabotage of the IPsec software in OpenBSD is the reason that the OpenBSD project lost its DARPA funding suddenly and unexpectedly. Now, back in 2003, sources such as ComputerWorld reported on Theo’s no-nonsense comments against the war on Iraq (such as the often-quoted “I try to convince myself that our grant means a half of a cruise missile doesn’t get built”) and it was suggested these were DARPA’s motivation.

First, Theo is to be commended for, as he states, “refus[ing] to become part of… a conspiracy.” It is not an easy decision for anyone, let alone someone of Theo’s stature, to decide to publish a private email. It involves a careful consideration of the consequences of violating a social norm for the greater good, and he acknowledges this:

Of course I don’t like it when my private mail is forwarded. However the “little ethic” of a private mail being forwarded is much smaller than the “big ethic” of government paying companies to pay open source developers (a member of a community-of-friends) to insert privacy-invading holes in software.

(I’ll get back to this decision Theo had to make in a bit.)

Gregory also deserves some recognition here, for blowing the whistle as soon as he was legally permitted to. This email serves as a prime example of the kind of damage a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) can do to the public good. I don’t think all NDAs are bad, and it’s way too easy to see why the FBI wouldn’t want the news of backdoors in OpenBSD’s IPsec software getting out. And, to be fair about it, I honestly think Gregory expected his email to become public; had he wanted this to truly remain a secret, he would have told no one. This almost certainly weighed into Theo’s decision as well.

This news has anywhere from annoying to disastrous consequences to users of OpenBSD’s IPsec software, and products derived from it. The latter half of this is the most troubling, as Theo wrote in his email:

Since we had the first IPSEC stack available for free, large parts of the code are now found in many other projects/products. Over 10 years, the IPSEC code has gone through many changes and fixes, so it is unclear what the true impact of these allegations are.

However inconvenient it may be for law enforcement agencies such as the FBI, back doors in security software are still weaknesses. It is easy to forget sometimes that computers are pretty stupid; they do what humans tell them to do. Exactly what humans tell them to do. A computer cannot, by itself, tell the difference between honest, largely law-abiding citizens such as me and the vast majority of you out there reading, someone acting with criminal intent, someone representing the FBI or another law enforcement agency, or someone working with a group like al Qaeda or the Taliban. As an example, anyone who knows my password on any of my computers, can type in the username (which is usually not intended to be kept secret; mine is normally “skquinn”) followed by that password (which is intended to be kept secret), and will be logged in as me. It does not matter to the computer one bit if it really is me; a police officer who wound up with one of my computers somehow, legally or not (and who as a rule, I would not want just going through the stuff on my computer; I value my Fourth Amendment rights), or an al Qaeda operative who somehow has access to my computer. (Sidenote: Biometric devices such as fingerprint scanners can be fooled as well, and in fact are in some cases more dangerous than a password typed in via the keyboard, as once compromised changing one’s fingerprints is impossible for all practical purposes.)

So it follows, the same “backdoors” the FBI put in, will work for anyone who knows about them, regardless of their good or evil intent. Such “backdoors,” as well as unintentional security holes which stem from bugs (programming errors) in the software, get found without the help of the source code (a human-readable form of the computer’s instructions) all the time. It was and is incredibly naive and stupid of the FBI and like-minded law enforcement agencies to assume that these “backdoors” would never be found.

We may not know for several more years just how much damage has been done by developers bribed by the FBI. This is but one small example of why I tend not to trust law enforcement agencies. Shame on the FBI for weakening the security of computers worldwide, including those outside of US jurisdiction. I hope restitution is made that involves fixing the intentionally broken software made fraudulently by programmers on the take from the FBI. That, and a pledge never to violate our privacy and peace of mind in such a fashion again, would be the minimum needed for me personally to start trusting the FBI again. Sadly, I don’t see that coming.

Unbelievable GOP shenanigans in a census year

I know I’m running a bit behind on this one, but this is an egregious enough example of political manipulation and misuse of the term “census” that I feel I need to say my piece about it.

Several blogs, including MOMocrats and PRWatch, covered a ruse by the Republican National Committee. The RNC made this survey and sent it out in the form of a fake yet vaguely official looking “census.” While the post does not reproduce this fake “census” in its entirety, what is there shows that it’s a clear attempt to deceive (for those that really want it, the whole thing as sent to someone in McKinney, TX, was posted to Scribd and other copies and stories abound by searching on phrases like “rnc fake census.”).

I’m all for political surveys and a political party trying to reach out to its members. If the Republicans want to grow their numbers, so be it. (I’m personally a somewhat moderate Democrat. “Somewhat moderate” means I frequently side with the Democrats, but most notably I’m pro-life and support the Second Amendment.)

But this is wrong. The RNC stops just short of misappropriating the official title and logo of the US Census Bureau. In fact, the official looking envelope and a reference to a $15 “processing fee” appear to be a heavily veiled attempt at deceiving the less thorough into contributing to the RNC without knowing it.

Perhaps most horrifying is the following (quoting the PRWatch entry):

A RNC spokeswoman defended the document, saying it was clearly marked as an RNC mailer and it was not an attempt to mislead voters.

I beg to differ. The notification that it’s not an official government document is rather easy to miss, especially to someone who’s forgotten what the real census looks like. An RNC spokeswoman actually defending this horrid tactic is, in all honesty, an embarrassment to the Republican party and makes me proud to be a Democrat.