May 20, 2015

WASHINGTON, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Francisco/San Mateo counties) today sent a letter to Phil Kerpen, head of the 501(c)(4) nonprofit American Commitment, demanding an explanation for thousands of falsified messages from constituents on the topic of net neutrality. Politico reported on the influx of emails sent to offices throughout Capitol Hill, and connected it to a campaign using identical language led by American Commitment.

“After two months, we still don’t know how these emails were sent,” said Speier. “My constituents deserve an answer – who used their personal information without their consent? This is identity theft, but instead of impersonating for financial gain, the originators of this theft are striking at the heart of our representative democracy.”

When confronted about the letters, Kerpen released the following statement: "We’re aware that other groups used identical language in their campaigns and we cannot speak to those efforts. We verified our data through postal address verification and follow up phone calls. We stand by our campaign…" Since then, he has acknowledged in meetings that the fraudulent campaign was not in fact sent by other groups, but was the result of an error by one of his contractors. After promising to reveal the identity of the contractor, he has not done so. Nor has he publicly revealed or apologized for what happened.

“Even if this campaign was sent accidentally, it still shows the potential for future fraudulent campaigns,” Speier said. “Anyone with a laptop can buy or steal consumer data and spam Congress using your identity – and it’s perfectly legal. No one should be able to impersonate you and send an opinion you may not have to your member of Congress. I am currently drafting legislation to ban impersonating someone when contacting Congress, so we can prevent this dangerous ‘astroturf’ technique in the future.”