Sullivan campaign email carries confusing Scott Brown postscript

Was it another cut-and-paste digital gaffe by Michael J. Sullivan’s US Senate campaign, or much ado about nothing?

A fund-raising e-mail blasted out by the Republican Friday afternoon carried a 400-word appeal signed by Sullivan, and the requisite “Paid for by Mike Sullivan for U.S. Senate Committee” disclaimer. But the fine print that followed attributed the message to “Scott Brown for Senate.”

That postscript said the Brown campaign had sent the email, and directed recipients to contact the former campaign’s Wrentham post office box with questions or concerns. Confusing matters further, it included a link to opt out of future messages from Sullivan.

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A Sullivan campaign spokeswoman said the campaign rented a list of e-mail addresses from the now defunct Brown 2012 reelection campaign, and that the fine print was included automatically as a disclaimer through the third-party marketing firm that manages the list.

“To ensure that recipients understand why they are receiving the email and to protect against improper spamming, the language at the bottom referring to Scott Brown was included,” Sullivan spokeswoman Lisa Barstow said by e-mail. “This language was required by [Brown’s] email vendor and is a standard practice.”

David Martin, a Boston campaign finance specialist who works with Democratic candidates, said the postscript was clumsily worded, but that doesn’t mean the Sullivan campaign wrote it. When a campaign rents a list of addresses – instead of buying them to keep – the campaign typically writes the content of the main message but does not send it itself. So the postscript could have been written by Brown’s campaign or by the list-management company.

“At the same time, someone should have been technically sophisticated enough to change it so it didn’t look like it was coming from Scott Brown,” Martin said.

A spokesman for Brown declined to comment but said Brown is refraining from endorsing a Republican candidate until after the April 30 primary.

But without an explanation, the Twitterverse was heavy with chatter about the e-mail this afternoon. That mostly meant jabs at the Sullivan campaign for what seemed like a second online gaffe in a week.

On Tuesday, the Globe reported that the policy statements on Sullivan’s website had been lifted, with some light editing, from the campaign website of former congressional candidate Richard Tisei. Sullivan’s campaign manager also ran Tisei’s campaign and wrote the text for both.

That issue came up in Tuesday night’s debate between the three Republican candidates, and Sullivan handled it in unruffled fashion, defending campaign manager Paul Moore, and describing it as a minor hiccup for a nascent campaign. Sullivan was the last of three GOP candidates to enter the fast-moving primary field.

“There’s nothing on there that I would say that contradicts positions that I’ve taken publicly,” Sullivan, the former US attorney for Massachusetts, said at the forum at Stonehill College. “It’s hard for me to be critical of the people who are volunteering and trying to be helpful.”

The fine print in today’s fundraising appeal from the Sullivan campaign says it was sent through VerticalResponse, an online marketing, survey, and mass e-mail firm.

Spokesmen for the other two Republican candidates, state Representative Daniel Winslow and private equity investor Gabriel Gomez, declined to weigh in.

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