Who Breached The Utah GOP’s Delegate Email List?

UPDATE: See this post which closes out this issue: Caveat Emptor: Final Update On Sutherland And The GOP Delegate E-Mail List

A little over a month ago, I noticed that the Sutherland Institute had gained access to a confidential Utah Republican Party delegate email list.  The party has always pledged that delegate emails would not be shared with anyone, not even Republican candidates.  Yet, somehow, a third party (the Sutherland Institute) that has recently teamed with a George Soros-funded organization gained access to the list.  At that time I wondered if they were somehow getting preferential treatment (involving a broken promise to delegates).

In the intervening time, I along with several others, have contacted the Utah Republican Party and the Sutherland Institute.  Sutherland maintains the list was given to them by the party.  Sutherland transparently states, in the opening paragraph of their survey:

Earlier this month, Sutherland Institute sent out an email survey to Republican state delegates. Seven hundred ten (20 percent) of the delegates responded.

Sutherland has made no denials of having the delegate email list and, as I understand it, 700 respondents would equate to 20 percent of the Republican delegates, further indicating that they indeed do have the full email list.

The Utah GOP, including Chair, Thomas Wright, maintains it has never given out the list nor will ever do so.  When asked if any elected officials have access to the list, Wright would not answer but a phone operator did look into it and stated that elected officials also had no access to the list and it was not to be shared with them.

The best response Wright, the phone operator, and another GOP official have is that Sutherland was given the list of delegate names but, somehow, managed to compile their own email list.  But that seems hardly likely when Sutherland explicitly states that they were given the email list and compiling an accurate list of about 3500 email address by extrapolation and name matching etc is extremely unlikely to say the least.  That seems to leave these possibilities:

1. The party did cooperate with Sutherland by providing the emails and doesn’t want to acknowledge it.
2. Someone leaked the emails and the party doesn’t want to investigate (thus undermining their policy and trust with delegates).
3. A legislator or elected official with Sutherland affiliations on immigration/HB116 (Bramble and Lockhart come to mind) was able to get the list (maybe by 1 or 2 above) and passed it on.
4. Sutherland is lying and only has a very small list of delegate emails (rather than the entire list) which they gathered at a convention or website sign ups etc.  If they are lying, their “study” is not only deceitful but violates basic statistical ethics and calls into question the veracity of all of their studies.  It would also destroy Sutherland’s guise of any credibility.

Exit questions:

Any other plausible explanations come to mind?

Who breached the delegate list?

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4 thoughts on “Who Breached The Utah GOP’s Delegate Email List?

  1. There are several companies in the state that work closely with and for many statewide and countywide candidates who contact delegates repeatedly, especially just after the delegates are elected at caucuses. All the delegates will be asked for their email addresses at some point in time and most are happy to provide it to enable better communication between them and the candidates. The counties also have state and county delegate contact information, which includes email addresses they obtain from their caucuses. Your possibilities above exclude the obvious, but less sinister:

    5. Sutherland obtained the emails from one or more of the capable campaign organizations within the state that have compiled this information through various candidate contact databases and county caucus records.

    By the way, making a fuss over this now seems a little premature as much of the delegate contact information will be outdated on March 16th, the day after caucuses, when many brand new delegates usually arrive on the scene. This brings to mind another possibility you could have presented:

    6. It doesn’t make much difference because, historically, there is significant delegate turnover at caucuses. Consequently, the current delegate email list provides polling data from many people who won’t be playing a role at the 2012 UTGOP Nominating Convention.

    While I was the immediate past UTGOP Secretary, the emails were NEVER provided to any person or organization under any circumstances. I have no reason to believe this policy has changed since May. In my opinion, this appears to be more of an effort to create an issue than an actual issue.

    • Your point could be valid, however, when contacted, Sutherland has stated that the list came from the party. If Sutherland is lying about the source, I assume the party will contact Sutherland and ask for them to clarify such in their study and cease stating the list came from the party, given the questions it raises about the party’s integrity regarding the pledge on email addresses (which, to my knowledge, has been maintained).

      If Sutherland did get the addresses from 3rd party organizations, I would assume it is not a complete list of delegates as many will also refuse to provide email addresses and 3rd party interest groups address lists would likely bias the study as delegates who hold similar views to the interest group will be more apt to provide their address. Additionally, compiling lists from 3rd party information without the recipients permission (for the 3rd party to share it or Sutherland to use it) may be considered spam.

      Finally, this does matter regardless of delegate turn over as it could indicate a breach in trust by a the most influential political party in the state. More so, if it results in some sort of favoritism to a single organization. The same would apply to any organization that promised not to share user information and breaks that promise – those thing have been in the news before and it can be poison to a business. It also matters if Sutherland didn’t get the list from the party as it would indicate a partial list calling their study into question (besides the fact that those who hold similar views as Sutherland are more inclined to respond). I still have no idea how Sutherland got their list (besides their own statements) or the extent of the list they have.

      As a final aside: I actually do wish the party would change policy on not providing delegate emails to candidates. It would be nice if candidates had the information on the charge that it be used strictly for the duration of their campaign and terminate a week after a winner is certified by the county clerk or the party. Right now, it seems the party is inadvertently creating an unequal playing field by giving high-money candidates a delegate access advantage as they will be able to afford the professional campaign companies.

  2. What bothers me here are the assumptions and insinuations. Just look at them:

    1. A deliberately leading list of “possibilities”
    2. Highlights on GETTING PREFERENTIAL TREATMENT
    3. Guilt by name-dropping (George Soros no less!)
    4. Inflammatory adjectives like “Breached”, “Lying”, “Broken Promises”, “Deceitful”
    5. Gratuitous slandering of elected officials (Bramble and Lockhart) with no supporting evidence whatsoever.
    6. Gratuitous association of HB-116 with supposed/contrived nefarious deeds

    And this is just from the initial story. The response after my post is just as bad:

    1. Restatement of a known non-fact. Who at Sutherland was contacted? Another “phone operator”? What specific questions were asked?
    2. Why would you assume the UTGOP would contact Sutherland about anything? Its position is that it didn’t provide this information and it’s not in charge of chasing down rumors to the contrary.
    3. How can you possibly make an assumption about the integrity of 3rd party lists after almost two years of candidate, elected official, and county party interactions with state delegates?!?
    4. On what basis are you making the assumption that “many” state delegates would not provide an email address? Their JOB as a state delegate is to make themselves available to candidates, not hide from them. These days, anyone can go out to Gmail, Yahoo, or wherever and create a JoeDelegate@yahoo.com email address just for that purpose. Who cares where that ends up?!?
    5. Your assumption that the “3rd party interest groups address lists would likely bias the study as delegates who hold similar views to the interest group will be more apt to provide their address” is completely unfounded. The 3rd parties didn’t call up state delegates and say, “Hello, I’m a 3rd party interest group and I’d like your email.”. It was done in the context of a candidate or elected official calling them.
    6. It does matter that the current group of delegates completed their elected duties six months ago and may not be going again next April. These people are less likely to be elected in March because they already had a chance to represent their precincts and they should be allowing others to go in the future. In my opinion, using expended delegate contact information is a waste of time. Further, painting its supposed dissemination as a “breach of trust”, “favoritism”, or a “broken promise” is disingenuous at best. At worst, it is UTGOP bashing with no apparent understanding of the issue.
    7. What exactly leads you to the conclusion that ” the party is inadvertently creating an unequal playing field by giving high-money candidates a delegate access advantage as they will be able to afford the professional campaign companies.”?!? There is no information here (or anywhere) to warrant such a statement. Besides, if candidates have a lot of money, they typically don’t need the state party at all. You might as well have said, “I hate all well-funded Republican candidates”. This is just plain wrong.

    I very much appreciate timely, well-researched, informative, meaningful political information as much as the next person. I intensely dislike stories that pander to anti-UTGOP/Republican leadership folks or anti-HB(insert unpopular bill of the day here) people. One enriches its readers and helps them make informed decisions. The other contributes to the senseless hatred that currently permeates the political arena and will ultimately be its demise.

    In this case, there is too little of the former and too much of the latter.

  3. Looks like we’re just going to disagree on this. Bottom line is the party hasn’t asked Sutherland to clarify how they obtained the delegate list or asked them to stop portraying that the list came from the party which raises a legitimate question of if the party is keeping the list strictly private.

    The possibilities listed are reasonable and excluded Sutherland patching their own list together as I took Keven at his word along with the language in Sutherland’s own report into account. Sorry you don’t like the adjectives but they apply to the issues I was discussing and giving one organization (if that did occur) a list unavailable to candidates or other organizations is preferential treatment. The NIF receives Soros funding and partnered with Sutherland (look at referred post, it contains the source links). I didn’t slander anyone, they are seem the most likely given their recent work with Sutherland. That doesn’t mean they broke the law or something to that effect, they simply may have passed on the list. HB116 comes up as Sutherland was a big player in the bill and was a topic of the survey.

    Actually, Sutherland’s survey, IF an accurate index, also shows that a significant percentage of delegates are multi-year delegates (elected several times in a row). Maybe you freely give out your email, but I don’t and many others do not. Typically people are more prone to give out their address to like-minded organizations they have a relationship or some trust with. An ACLU email contact list survey is typically going to render far different results on an issue than a Sarah Palin contact list on the same issue. Hence the skewing of statistical sampling when using such lists. As I recall, Sutherland stated they were sponsoring the survey which will skew response data as recipients familiar with Sutherland will respond (or not) according to their experience/perceptions with the group. It is a delegates job to gather information but that doesn’t explicitly require them to give their email to candidates and it certainly isn’t an obligation to give your email out to a special interest group that contacts you during that time.

    You provided the information for the ‘inadvertent benefit’ statement – if consulting groups are hired compile the delegate email lists, it makes sense that higher budget pre-convention campaigns will hire them while lower budget candidates will not. I don’t really care if anyone has more money than another candidate, that’s life and I’ve supported “well-funded Republican candidates” and strongly opposed McCain-Feingold and spending limit ideas. The current policy, if you are correct about hiring firms to compile email lists, just adds in an extra advantage to the higher funded campaign. I don’t think that policy makes sense even if above wasn’t the case – I think candidates should all get the delegate email list with some associated time restriction on its use.

    For what it’s worth, I would be astounded if possibility 4 was correct as it would be so detrimental to the organization (hence the implications). While I don’t always agree with Sutherland, I have a tough time believing they would risk the fallout just for saying they got the delegate list from the party. It’s a possibility but, I think, an unlikely one.

    Like I said, we’re just going to disagree on this one, unless we like going around and around on this.

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