That’s what Dylan Boyd asked last November about the email addresses collected by the Obama campaign.  At the time, CNN had reported the campaign having collected over 3 million email addresses.  It seems that their count was off just a smidge as the LA Times last week has the number of email addresses collected at 13 million.

So what are they going to do with all of those email addresses?

According to the LA Times, “his political team is quietly planning for a nationwide hiring binge that would marshal an army of full-time organizers to press the new president’s agenda and lay the foundation for his reelection.”  “Barak Obama 2.0”, as the new organization is being called internally, looks to be emerging as a permantent campaign structure that could have an annual budget of $75 million in privately raised funds.

The Times states:

“Though the campaign-style organizing network would be operated through the Democratic National Committee, the new service organization is envisioned as a separate nonprofit.”

My guess is that Dylan’s and Dahlia Lithwick’s hope of receiving future emails from the planned perpetual campaign without a “Donate” button isn’t going to happen.  Maybe Dahlia isn’t far off when she said,

“Dear Dahlia, Joe Biden and I have a bunch of great ideas for fixing government. And with your $100 donation, we can ensure that the S-Chip is fully funded and that the spotted owl remains on the endangered-species list. Please watch this video and consider a contribution.”

While the LA TImes goes on to state:

“this nonprofit arm would be used to help victims of natural disasters, but would do so under the Obama umbrella while continuing to build the overall network’s massive e-mail database”

Only two paragraphs down they say:

“Though the campaign-style organizing network would be operated through the Democratic National Committee, the new service organization is envisioned as a separate nonprofit.”

And further down:

“In operating the network, the DNC would work closely with the White House political office, which will be headed by experienced campaign organizers schooled in the Obama tactics of using the Internet to harness the massive network of neighborhood-level volunteers.”

So I guess Dylan’s other wish:

“That our emails are treated as a vehicle to allow relevant communications to all the [A]merican people that wish to hear from this Presidency and are not allowed to fall into the hands of other government bodies, elected officials looking to increase reach, nor those of future candidates trying to grow their lists.”

Probably isn’t going to come true, either….

“Obama’s presidential campaign generated a database of 13 million e-mail addresses and tens of thousands of phone bank volunteers and neighborhood coordinators. Strategists believe these assets can grow in the years before Obama runs again.”

So we’ve got a political non-profit entity with 13 million email addresses.  And since the CAN-SPAM Act only applies to email promoting “a commercial product or service”, politicians and many non-profit organizations may find themselves exempt from the Act. 

And what about email “Best Practices”?  Well, I didn’t see politicians from either side of the aisle applying those Best Pactices while campaigning, so what would make one think that they’ll start applying them now? 

What saddens me is that for years our industry has worked hard to convince marketers to follow email Best Practices, but then wrote article after article about what we could learn from last year’s online political campaigning.  Not one bad practice was taken to task as it would have been had a private entity been emailing in the same fashion.  Not only did the candidates get a pass on their bad emailing behavior, they were lauded and held up as worthy of emulating.

It seems that some emailers might have even taken those articles to heart and applied some of the same tactics.  And who is to blame if they did? 

During the holiday season I was receiving as many as 3 messages a day from Toys “R” Us.  According to Chad White at The Retail Email Blog, Toys “R” Us, RedEnvelope, and Finish Line had increased their email volume by more than 200%, with Harry & David increasing their volume by almost 700%.

As Jason Baer at Convince & Convert pointed out last week, “[E]mail isn’t a short-term tactic. It’s a forever tactic.”  Political campaigns are short-term.  Maybe some pundits should have pointed that out when writing about all of the wonderful things online marketers could learn from online political campaigning. 

We don’t know what the future holds for the 13 million email addresses collected by the Obama campaign.  The big question for me is will our industry pundits hold “Barak Obama 2.0” to the same standards that we hold all other emailers?