One of the latest trends in political fundraising is the “petition.” I get them in my email all the time. They go like this:
“The Republicans are about to do something awful. Please sign this petition to oppose it (oh, and please give me money so I can run for Congress and try to stop them.)”
The petitions, everyone in the industry knows, aren’t actually petitions in the way most of us think of them. I’m not sure most of these “petitions” actually reach any decision-makers.
No: They’re about collecting names and email addresses for campaign organizing and fundraising.
Some of them are actually related to an issue that a candidate is working on. I just got one from Rep. Ro Khanna:
Hey Tim – did you see this important email about Ro taking on Exxon?
We launched a petition for everyday Americans to show their support for Ro as he takes on executives of Exxon Mobil Corporation, Shell, Chevron and other major oil and gas companies for their part in blocking climate legislation. Can you add your name now so Ro knows you’re with him in this fight to save our planet?
That takes you to a campaign page. The small print:
By signing this form, you are agreeing to receive occasional emails on this and related campaigns from Ro Khanna.
Okay: Khanna actually is taking on Exxon Mobil. He’s also raising money for his re-election, as all incumbent members of Congress do. It’s kind of a trick to tell people they are signing a petition when they’re really signing up for campaign solicitations, but this one doesn’t bother me that much.
Then there’s state Sen. Scott Wiener’s latest. It arrived yesterday.
The headline: “Let Sha’Carri Run!”
Sha’Carri Richardson is one of a kind. She is sensational, ridiculously talented, and faster than any other American woman in her competition.
She is also a 21-year-old whose mother just died. She used cannabis, which is legal in many places (including Oregon, where the Olympic trials were held and the test conducted), to help cope with her terrible loss.
She was all set to head to the Tokyo Olympics as a gold medal favorite, until she tested positive for marijuana. Because of the Olympics’ antiquated drug rules, she likely won’t get to compete.
Let’s be clear: using cannabis is not and should not be a crime. In fact, many atheletes (sic) use cannabis to help with pain and other chronic issues. It’s not a performance enhancing drug, and it makes no sense for Sha’Carri, or anyone, to be disqualified for using cannabis.
Will you sign on to our petition to show you think Sha’Carri Richardson should be able to run in the Olympics?
The link goes to a Re-Elect Scott Wiener campaign page. And right below it is a “donate” button that takes you not to any fund to help Richardson but to a link to donate to Wiener’s campaign.
This one, I think, crosses the line.
In essence, Wiener is using Richardson’s battle with the IOC for his own political purposes. He is not calling for hearings and hauling in the IOC or American Anti-Doping Agency officials. He — like almost every other politician in the Bay Area — has denounced the decision. But he has not introduced, as far as I know, any legislation that would in any way impact the regulation of cannabis in Olympic sports (and he can’t anyway – that’s far beyond the jurisdiction of the state Legislature).
No: What he’s doing, as one local consultant told me, is “pretty typical these days – News Hack the issue of the day to build a list.”
And in my mind, he’s exploiting the struggles of a young athlete to do it.
I emailed campaign consultant Maggie Muir, who has worked on his past campaign, yesterday and asked if she was running this one. I said I had a question about it.
She responded: “What is the question?” That at least suggests she is still involved with his campaign.
Here’s what I asked:
I have an email from Scott’s campaign that includes a petition related to Sha’Carri Richardson. My question: When people sign the petition, where does it go? Are those signatures collected to use for future contact/fundraising in the campaign?
She has not responded. I called to follow up. She has not responded.
I texted Wiener to ask if he thought this was all okay, and if he had Richardson’s permission to use her name in his fundraising. He has not responded.
I will let you know if they do.
Meanwhile: Sorry, this is gross.
UPDATE: I just heard from Richardson’s agent, Renaldo Nehemia. He made it clear that Richardson did not give Wiener permission to use her name, and is not happy about this:
“The USATF has made their final team selections public, and my client was not added to the team. I respectfully ask that there will No use of Sha’Carri Richardson’s name or likeness in any fundraising endeavor for Senator Wiener.”
Wiener’s campaign solicitation, it seems to me, is misleading at best. He’s suggesting that you can help Sha’Carri by signing a petition (you can’t) when what you are really doing is helping him raise money.