Apr 092006
Authors: James Baetke

A CSU graduate is accusing state Rep. Angie Paccione’s campaign of prying into his financial records and wrongly accessing his e-mail in attempts to win his vote in her campaign for a seat in the U.S. Congress.

Justin T. Davis, a Republican, said he received a mass e-mail from Paccione’s campaign asking for his vote in the Fourth Congressional District race currently held by Republican Congresswoman Marilyn Musgrave of Fort Morgan.

Musgrave is looking for another term in office, opposed by the Democrat Paccione and newcomer Eric Eidsness, working on the Reform Party ticket – all for a seat in one of the nation’s largest Congressional districts by area, covering 18 counties.

The problem?

Davis said the e-mail shows evidence Paccione tapped into his financial aid records and he is troubled by how his e-mail is being used for political purposes.

“To me, the only way (Paccione) knew my financial information was by stealing it or getting it illegally,” Davis said.

When Davis received the e-mail in February, along with an estimated 20,000 other CSU and University of Northern Colorado (UNC) students, he sent a letter to Paccione demanding an explanation to how she got his e-mail and financial information. He also forwarded the letter to CSU President Larry Penley and to the offices of Musgrave for Congress.

“It is a very sneaky and manipulative way to get votes,” Davis said, who says he never signed up to be on any mailing list for Paccione.

In the mass e-mail Paccione partly writes: “Part of the financial aid that you and your family receive comes from the federal government. The person that now represents you in Congress…has twice voted to cut your aid package.”

This statement has Davis crying foul, claiming Paccione is working with CSU conspirators to obtain sensitive personal information for political gain.

“I would be as just as outraged if Marilyn Musgrave sent the e-mail,” he said.

Musgrave’s camp, including her chief of staff Guy Short, refused to return repeated calls last week. The office of Musgrave for Congress sent documents to the Collegian questioning Paccione’s e-mail, but has failed to comment on them directly.

Blanket e-mailing

Paccione denies the accusations and defends her mass e-mails as part of any candidate’s campaign to promote his or her platform, especially in today’s technological and computer-savvy age.

“We made the assumption that most students are on financial aid,” said the lawmaker from Fort Collins.

A total of 29,000 e-mails were sent to CSU and UNC students, while 9,000 of those were sent back and rejected, Paccione said. All of the e-mails had the same content, including the “blanket” financial aid statement.

Musgrave ranks the highest in the U.S. House in terms of the number of e-mail addresses she has collected – more than 176,000, according to a roster of lists reviewed by The Hill, a newspaper in Washington D.C.

“Marilyn has a tactic of accusing her opponents of doing the same exact thing she is doing,” Paccione said.

Using e-mails is only a fraction of methods Paccione uses or plans to use, including radio, TV and newspaper advertisements, political rallies and going door-to-door meeting constituents.

Political e-mails: Spam or freedom of speech?

According to Duke’s Law & Technology Review, e-mailing does no more harm to voters than other forms of advertising. It provides candidates with an inexpensive means of campaigning and directly engages the voters. Moreover, in an age when money defines political campaigns, e-mail helps liberate candidates from the stranglehold of wealthy special interest groups.

Davis said he generally supports political e-mails, but when they cross the threshold of privacy of the recipient into manipulative structuring, this is where voters have to take a stand.

Graduating from CSU last year, Davis wrote the legislation on Senate Bill 3424 that helped prompt the university to adopt a nine-digit identification code for students versus their social security number.

Blasting Kuk

In his letter to Paccione, Davis blasts Linda Kuk, CSU vice president for Student Affairs: “We can’t bring this matter up with Dr. Linda Kuk … because she lost her inability to be objective when she decided to contribute $500 to Ms. Paccione’s campaign.”

The letter alludes to the fact CSU may be giving Paccione “preferential treatment to use CSU resources because she is a professor at CSU,” questioning whether financial information was stolen or sold to her by CSU.

Kuk denies any wrongdoing, calling the accusations “low.”

“I can assure you we are not giving out private information,” Kuk said.

E-mails and other pieces of student contact information are available electronically and in a paper form as public information, Kuk said. If students want this information pulled from the directory, they can do so, but CSU policy states it’s all or nothing-students cannot cherry pick what information they want to be public.

“We follow federal guidelines,” Kuk said.

Because Paccione is working in a state-elected office, she is not technically a staffer with CSU, Kuk said. She was cut from the payroll in December while she works in the current Colorado legislative session.

No one has access to financial aid records without the consent of the party involved, Kuk said.

“If my father was running for office, I wouldn’t let him violate the law,” she said.

Kuk welcomes student concerns and asserts her office will be unbiased, no matter the political ties.

“The allegations we can’t be objective about this is nonsense,” she said.

James Baetke can be reached at regional@collegian.com

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