Richardson's email blasts anger Dems
SALEM — A top Oregon legislator who's compiled a massive email list from public records requests of state agencies crashed the Legislature's Web server earlier this year when he tried to send a newsletter and four large attachments to 475,477 people, according to a report by information technology specialists.
The report comes to light amid complaints by Democrats and others over what they call spam from Republican Rep. Dennis Richardson of Central Point, who first said he was using the list to solicit suggestions for use in his role as a co-chairman of the committee that drafts the budget.
But Richardson also has used the list to send his legislative newsletters and other communications, the Salem Statesman Journal reported Wednesday.
Democrats said Richardson hasn't fulfilled his promise to take people off the list if they don't want to be on it, and those who successfully unsubscribe also give up other legislative updates.
"This forces a 'Richardson spam or nothing' choice, wherein recipients must choose between receiving no emails or continuing to receive Richardson's polemics," Democratic spokesman Jared Mason-Gere said.
In Richardson's most recent email, sent out Friday, he castigated the Eagle Point Education Association, a school employees' union, for its tactics in a current strike that has closed schools in the community, which is part of his district.
His email comments accused the union of using students to support its position, describing that as "despicable."
He went on to say, "The union . . . is working for its members and not the students. This is what unions do. . . .
". . . Once again union representatives take the position," he wrote, "if you have to lay off teachers and cut school days to get the public to raise taxes and spend more money on education, then that is what you should do."
Richardson's emails first drew widespread attention when they crashed the Oregon State Legislature's Web server for two hours on Feb. 8 during this year's session. According to a report filed with Legislative Administration, that slowed Internet access to a crawl and impeded public access to the Legislature's site, including audio streaming of legislative hearings.
"I know that his office has worked with the tech folks at the Capitol to iron out some solutions to avoid that in the future," said House Republican Caucus spokesman Nick Smith. "There haven't been any crashes since that incident."
Richardson used public records requests to compile the list. He said he doesn't want to irritate people but acknowledged that it's been harder than expected to get people off it.
"Every time we receive a complaint, we take them off, but with some people we have more than one entry that feeds into the same email address," Richardson said. "I've had people tell me, 'I've tried to get off your list three times.' I write back and say, 'I'm sorry this happened.'"
The liberal group Our Oregon asked Richardson in writing Monday for details about the list, including the number of addresses and a list of the agencies he solicited for them.
Our Oregon spokesman Scott Moore said one couple's email address showed up because they had communicated with a state agency about their disabled son, who had recently died.
"A lot of people feel like he's invaded their inbox, and it's very difficult to unsubscribe from his list," Moore said. "He accessed these emails from people who had no expectation their email addresses would be given out and used for political purposes."
Richardson said Tuesday he gave the request to legislative lawyers. "We will comply to the full extent required by the law," he said.