What's wrong with John Kerry's emails?

Something quite strange is going on with John Kerry's emails, but I'm afraid I'm not enough of a techie to explain it. In 2004, John Kerry constructed a huge email list, rumoured to have 3 million members. Since then, the Senator has used the list to send out appeals to support and, in particular money, on behalf of Democrats running in key races, most notably during the 2006 midterms.

Yesterday, Kerry announced that he would be supporting Barack Obama for the Presidency and sent out a similar appeal:

Hi Friend,

Martin Luther King said, “The time is always right to do what is right.” So I'm choosing this time to share an important decision I've made, one I believe is right for this country.

The JohnKerry.com community has been very important to me and very important to the Democratic resurgence over the last couple of years, so I wanted to let all of you know my decision before I confirm it with anyone else. I want to share with you my conviction that in a field of fine Democratic candidates, the next President of the United States can be, should be, and will be Barack Obama. Each of our candidates would make a fine President, and we are blessed with a strong field. But for this moment, at this time in our nation's history, Barack Obama is the right choice.

Please join me in supporting Barack Obama’s candidacy.

I’m proud to have helped introduce Barack to our nation when I asked him to speak to our national convention, and there Barack's words and vision burst out. On that day he reminded Americans that our “true genius is faith in simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles.” And with his leadership we can build simple dreams, and we can turn millions of small miracles into real change for our country.

At this particular moment, with our country faced with great challenges in our economy, in our environment, and in our foreign policy, and with our politics torn by division, Barack Obama can bring transformation to our country. With Barack, we can build a new majority of Americans from all regions who can turn the page on the politics of Karl Rove and begin a new politics, one worthy of our nation's history and promise. We can bring millions of disaffected people – young and old – to the great task of governing and making a difference, child to child, community to community.

Please click here to give what you can to Barack Obama’s campaign for President and help build this future for our country.

The moment is now, and the candidate for this moment is Barack Obama. Like him, I also lived abroad as a young man, and I share with him a healthy respect for the advantage of knowing other cultures and countries, not from a book or a briefing, but by personal experience, by gut, by instinct. He knows the issues from the deep study of a legislator, and he knows them from a life lived outside of Washington. His is the wisdom of real-world experience combined with the intellect of a man who has thought deeply about the challenges we face.

History has given us this moment. But we need to decide what to do with it. I believe, with this moment, we should make Barack Obama President of the United States.

Please join me in supporting his campaign.

Thank you,
John Kerry

I was on the train at the time the email came out, so read it on my phone. I thought it was quite interesting, so tried to forward it on to a few people. However, when I clicked the forward button, here's what I saw:


It's time to get things moving in the Senate again.

In 2008, we need to remove the Roadblock Republicans and replace them with good, progressive Democrats instead.

Click here to help make it happen!

Dear Friend,

Real short -- here's what it comes down to. Yesterday I sat down with my team at johnkerry.com and we started to type up an email detailing all the ways the Roadblock Republicans have tried to block progress in the Senate & it was quite a list.

I fought for 13 years in the minority to stop Republicans from doing bad things, we broke the bank here at johnkerry.com in 2006 to win a majority to make good things happen, but still the Republicans are standing the way.

And you already know what's not getting done. You don't need a long explanation of the tricks the Republicans are playing to block action. All that really counts is the result, right?

And you're already feeling the impact of the good things these Republicans have stopped us from doing -- on Iraq, on global climate change, on energy policy, and on childrens' health care.

You don't need another laundry list -- you just need a roadmap to changing the Senate. And that starts by changing more Senators. Repeat what you did in 2006. Grow that majority.

It's that simple, and it's that challenging -- we need to make 2008 the year we break the back of the Bush Republican Party, and give the next Democratic President in 2009 a Senate that will be an ally for change.

Where to start? Dig in to give what you can to help some great Democrats who are running to pick up Republican seats in the Senate.

Follow this link to learn more about Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, Mark Udall in Colorado, Tom Allen in Maine, and Jeff Merkely in Oregon. They're all good, progressive voices, and if we elect them all to the Senate, we'll have gone a long way in forcing a new direction in our country.

But it won't happen just by wishing for it -- we need to work as hard as we can to do it, so please give what you can.

Thanks for your help,

John Kerry

I did actually forward the email to my account, and sure enough, this second, ghost email appeared, not the original support Barack Obama appeal. I really didn't understand what was going on, so I went and played with the email a bit in a few different formats. I use Thunderbird, and it seems that when the reader is set to plain text, the wrong email appeared. I then forwarded it to a webmail account, which likewise showed the wrong email.

It seems that the John Kerry people are using some kind of underlying template where the text has not been replaced and that, in certain circumstances, appears instead of the overlaid HTML message (if anyone can offer a better technical explanation, I would be grateful). Pretty careless of someone. It also says something quite interesting about John Kerry's email list - it is, unlike the Howard Dean or Ron Paul's fundraising network very hierarchical and doesn't, to a great degree, rely on virality. After all, if it did, surely people would have noticed the problem that occurred when forwarding the email?