I just received this letter in the mail and find it somewhat disturbing. It does appear to be from Harvard University – I googled some of the names. What does everyone think of this letter? I find it hard to believe that this is research, when they ask no questions and do not intend to contact me. Doesn’t this seem more like an attempt at intimidating non-majority views than “research”? Yojimbo
This letter is part of an effort to disseminate information about political campaign contributions made by individuals from your neighborhood:
[It goes on to list my name in full, others names with their last name initial only and their first name, amount donated, and to either Rep or Dem party.]
YOUR HOUSEHOLD AND OTHER HOUSEHOLDS IN YOUR AREA WERE RANDOMLY CHOSEN TO RECEIVE A LETTER OF THIS TYPE.
The above table contains a list of the total campaign contributions to presidential candidates made by 6 individuals from your neighborhood in the period from April 1, 2011 to April 1, 2012, according to the public records published by the Federal Election Commission.
Your full name, address and details about your campaign contributions are freely available to anyone with internet access. You can search for individual contributions by first and last name, or by zip code, using the following tool from the website of the Federal Election Commission.
You can use this website to see which candidates or political parties your neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers are contributing to. Access to the data is anonymous.
This letter is part of a study of political campaign contributions made by individuals which is being conducted by researchers at Harvard University. We will not send any more letters about past or future contributions or to your neighbors. You can find more information about this project, including contact information, on our website:
Information Dissemination of Campaign Contributions
Here is what the website says – This is the entirety of the website:
Welcome to our website. We are a group of researchers at Harvard University studying political campaign contributions made by individuals.
With that goal, we are sending out personalized mailings about campaign contributions in the US. If you receive a letter and have any questions about the information provided to you, please feel free to email us at email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
If you are interested in receiving information about the results of the studies we are conducting, just send us a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will send you a brochure detailing our work as soon as our studies are finished. This research is being carried out at Harvard University by Ricardo Perez-Truglia (email@example.com) and Dr. Guillermo Cruces (firstname.lastname@example.org). You may also contact Ricardo Perez-Truglia’s thesis project supervisor by emailing Belynda Bady (email@example.com).
This project has been approved by Harvard’s Committee on the Use of Human Subjects in Research. Complaints or problems concerning any research project may, and should, be reported if they arise. You can contact the Committee via Committee Officer Jane Calhoun by phone (617-495-5459) or by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Individuals receiving letters were randomly selected from the public records of the Federal Election Commission (FEC). Receipt of one of these letters means nothing more than that the recipient was chosen by an automated computer program to receive information about campaign donations in his or her neighborhood. The FEC explicitly allows the use of information about individual campaign contributions for academic research such as ours. The specific activities identified as permissible by the Federal Election Commission include the use of individual contributor information for bona fide academic research projects that do not involve the sale or use of that information for a commercial purpose or for soliciting contributions (see FEC Advisory Opinion No. 1986-25). Our research project has no commercial or political objective and thus complies with the rules regulating the use of contribution information. For more information, please see the FEC’s “sale and use brochure” (available online at http://www.fec.gov/pages/brochures/sale_and_use_brochure.pdf).
Thank you again for your visit to this website. With best regards,
Ricardo Perez-Truglia and Guillermo Cruces (the research team)
PO BOX 380429, Cambridge, MA 02238
Here is my emailed response:
I received one of your letters about my campaign contributions, and I am highly skeptical of your “research”.
Why are you “disseminating information about political campaign contributions made by individuals from my neighborhood”? What the fuck do I care about to whom other individuals contribute?
I resent your “efforts” to get people to actively look online to find out to whom their neighbors have contributed. Are you trying to Balkanize our neighborhood? Are you trying to use intimidation to suppress contributions to non-majority groups (i.e. non-Democrat)?
I think your “research” is bullshit, and I doubt you can defend it. So, tell me, what is the fucking point of your “research”? What do you hope to “understand”. I think your “research” falls into the realm of East German watch-and-report-on-your-neighbor tactics.
I dare you to defend your research.
[Cue the sound of crickets.]
Donation: $215 to Ron Paul