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How to donate to US elections without getting spammed to death…

Like many people who live in America I have donated to US political candidates and campaigns. And like many people who live in America I have subsequently found my entire life suddenly and completely overwhelmed by text-messages and e-mail spam and phone calls and any number of other venal, stressy, desperate campaign messages.

Now of course by law you can unsubscribe from these things, but sometimes without realizing, it often turns out you’ve actually donated to a few different services – whether it be Act Blue or a specific campaign or to the DNC or whatever. And you have to hunt everyone one of them down to get unsubscribed. And go through a whole bunch of rigmarole and fighting and arguments to do so.

(I suppose it’s also possible that you may have donated to a Republican campaign. I find that unlikely, but if that’s the case, keep moving please, there’s nothing for you here.)

Anyway, I was so put off by the torrent of crap I got after donating many times to Barack Obama’s campaign that I spent a large amount of time getting myself off every single one of their records and lists. And then I decided I did not want to donate any more money again after that until such a point that the Democrats made it easy to choose how much spam you should get, and easy to unsubscribe. But they never did. So I didn’t donate to any political campaign in 2016. And then Trump got in and it was clearly all my fault. Lesson learned.

Anyway, this year I decided I wanted to donate again, but I wanted to do it a bit more intelligently. And after a bit of research, this is what I recommend. It’s really quite easy and non-threatening.

(1) Get a Google Voice account. This is essentially a real telephone number that you can receive texts on and can reroute to your actual phone line if you want. Use this number in everything you do with a political campaign. Then go in and change the settings to automatically go to voicemail and to not be put through to your main phone number.

You can go and check your messages and texts at any time you want. It’s a real number and it works. You’re not breaking (as far as I know) any laws or rules. You’re just keeping it off your damn main phone.

(2) Use + signs in your e-mail address. This is a sneaky little trick that allows you to tag an e-mail address you give out. If your e-mail address is (for example) chief@plasticbag.org, you can actually give out the e-mail address chief+democrats@plasticbag.org and it will 100% work. The bit after the plus is ignored by the routing systems, but is preserved when it enters your e-mail client.

That means if you do nothing, an e-mail sent to chief+democrats@plasticbag.org will end up in the mailbox of chief@plasticbag.org. You can make as many of these e-mail addresses as you like and they’ll all work.

However, the full address with the +democrats on it is still visible to your e-mail client. That means you can then set up a simple rule to mark all messages from that account as read and file them away in some hidden folder that you never look in.

I think you basically still have to provide your home address and that means they can send mail shots and the like, but to be honest, I’ve never found that interruptive or a particular problem compared to continual mail spam, text messages and phone calls.

Anyway, if you set that stuff up—and it literally takes half an hour to do it—you can then continue to donate with those details to whoever you like and you do it completely safely without having to worry about them continuing to spam the living hell out of you.

And sure, that means you also won’t see the daily begging e-mails or texts from your preferred candidate, and that probably means you won’t end up donating as much from guilt or shame or fear. And that means that your candidate will probably not get quite as much money as if you donated as normal. But if you’re anything like me, that wasn’t the option any more. The option was donate and live in rage and frustration at how often you’re harassed or give up donating forever. This feels like a reasonable compromise to me, and it has worked extremely well this election cycle.

With any luck at some point political parties will learn that relentless spam and calls and guilting people may work in the short term, but that its long term consequences are to alienate and piss of their own supporters. It seems short sighted to me. It seems like an obviously bad approach long-term. But they haven’t learned it yet, so I think it’s perfectly reasonable to do what you have to do to get through the night.

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