Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Real Heroes or Real Suspicious

Ticker Tape Parade
"We can't all be heroes because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by." -- Will Rogers

The Richardson Coalition PAC has announced the creation of what it calls its annual Real Heroes Award. The award will recognize "unsung heroes" whose service to the Richardson community is often overlooked. You know, the volunteers who work with youth groups, social services, health care providers, etc. Why is the Richardson Coalition PAC sponsoring this award? In its words, "The Coalition believes strongly in promoting the positive image of Richardson. This award will be an opportunity for the Richardson community to celebrate our many citizens who give to the community with no expectation of any personal reward."

After the jump, this skeptic's doubts.

What can be wrong with a Real Heroes Award? Call me skeptical. Call me cynical even. But I can't help looking behind the curtain when a political action committee presents itself as a do-gooder. It's a political action committee, after all, not a charity. Key word, political. I think I can be excused for wondering what political purpose might lie behind this award.

You don't have to read very far to discover one possible benefit the Richardson Coalition PAC will derive from sponsoring this award. According to the rules, "Votes will be limited to one per individual identified by a unique email address. You are encouraged to inform your Richardson friends and neighbors about supporting a nominee they feel strongly about by casting their vote and submitting comments on why they feel this nominee is deserving of the award."

If money is the milk blood of politics, mailing lists can't be far behind. Politicians would do almost anything for targeted mailing lists of voters sympathetic to their campaign, to solicit their support, money and votes. The Richardson Coalition PAC has assembled its own mailing list (by which I learned of the Real Heroes Award) that it used to great effect in the 2009 Richardson City Council elections (all PAC supported candidates won election). Depending on response levels, the Real Heroes Award could pad the PAC's mailing list significantly. If so, expect the PAC to be even more influential in the 2011 council election.

Is there anything wrong with that? Not really. I just wish the PAC would be more open with the public. I just wish it had answered that question "Why?" more like this, "The Richardson Coalition PAC wants to grow its mailing list and thinks doing it this way will be both effective and make a contribution to the Richardson community at the same time." Because, whether the PAC cares to admit it, the PAC itself stands to benefit significantly from its own award. Ironically, the PAC's stated desire to recognize "citizens who give to the community with no expectation of any personal reward" would make the PAC itself ineligible for its own award.

P.S. I didn't link to the Richardson Coalition PAC's Web site because I didn't want to promote the PAC's collection of email addresses. I guess just blogging about it promotes it anyway. Oh well.

PPS. The Richardson Coalition PAC could dispel my suspicions completely by changing its voting method so it doesn't collect email addresses in the process. For example, use IP addresses.

PPPS. Have a look at the Privacy Policy of the Richardson Coalition PAC, especially the bit about their use of Web Beacons to keep track of how many people read their emails. Creepy.

PPPPS. I just added this last postscript because I've never seen five postscripts before. And I hate it when people write PSS for their second postscript. This postscript attempts to drive the point home.

PPPPPS. Oops. Make that "four" postscripts. ... No, make that five. I was right the first time.

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