“Nation of Change”, who are you and why are you spamming me?

By | July 28, 2011

IMPORTANT UPDATE: As of August 12, 2011, it appears that Brave New Foundation had nothing to do with the spam reported below and in fact they are as much a victim as I am. Please see this posting for details.

Dear Nation of Change (along with Brave New Foundation),

Let me tell you about a little strategy I use to find out who’s buying and selling my email address… When I give my email address to an organization or Web site, I “tag” it to make it unique to that site while still ending up in my inbox. So when that site decides to sell or share my address, I know who did it.

When I put my address on a petition created by Brave New Films (now the Brave New Foundation) during the 2008 presidential campaign, I did not give Brave New Films permission to give it out to others. Guess what, folks, that’s spamming, and it’s evil, and I don’t support organizations that spam or help others spam. By giving out my address and others without permission, Brave New Foundation has permanently lost my support, and by using my and others’ illicitly obtained addresses, so have you.

But that’s not the end of it. Because I’d never heard of your organization before receiving your spam yesterday, and because it was sent to an address that should not have been shared, and because something looked a little, well, iffy about it, I decided to do a little research and try to learn more about you. And I can’t say I liked what I found.

It’s not because you’re advocating positions with which I disagree. I haven’t actually looked carefully at your positions, but from what little I glanced at, I didn’t see anything I found particularly shocking or offensive. No, what’s bothering me is that I get the distinct impression that you’re trying to lie and deceive people. And if you think I want to see progressives emulating the Koch Brothers, boy, you’ve got another think coming.

Let me give you some examples of what I’m talking about.

The email you sent me yesterday was the first one I’ve ever received from you, and yet there was no acknowledgment of that fact in the email. You made it look like it was just business as usual, as if you were someone I’d been corresponding with all along, just another political organization clamoring for attention in my inbox. That’s just wrong. If you’re going to start spamming people without their permission, then the least you can do is introduce yourselves and give them the opportunity to recognize that you’re someone new and they should make a conscious decision about whether they want to keep hearing from you. Trying to slip in under people’s radars is deceptive and slimy.

Like your email to me, your Web site is clearly and unequivocally designed to give the impression that you’re an entrenched, established organization. There’s nothing on the site about the fact that you’ve just launched, nor is there any historical information about you. Where did you come from? How long have you been around? What was the impetus for the creation of your organization? How long have you been working in progressive journalism? What are your progressive credentials? What are your journalism credentials? What are the biographies and qualifications of your leadership team and board of directors (neither anyone on your board nor your executive director have any easily found information about them on the Web)? All of this information is needed for people to be able to properly evaluate the credibility of your organization. Maybe after you’ve been around for a few years, your work will speak for itself, but it’s deceptive and slimy to pretend that it does when it really doesn’t.

How do I know that you just launched? Because when I searched yesterday, there wasn’t a single link to your Web site anywhere on the internet that isn’t controlled by you (i.e., your Facebook page, Twitter feed). Did you think nobody would notice that you sprang out of nowhere?

When I look up the whois information for Brave New Foundation, just as an example, I see real contact information about real people who work for that organization. In contrast, when I look up your whois information, I see:

Registration Private
Domains by Proxy, Inc.
15111 N. Hayden Rd., Ste 160, PMB 353
Scottsdale, Arizona 85260

What (or who) are you trying to hide?

If you think I’m going to want to have anything to do with an organization that proudly lists Noam Chomsky as one of its authors, you’re very much confused. He’s a nutcase and a crackpot, and any progressive who thinks he’s anywhere near on the same page as Chomsky is a progressive I want nothing to do with, thank you very much.

Your Web site claims, “We are directly funded by small donations from the public whom we serve. We believe that this distinction is essential to the production of reliable journalism and truly independent thought.” However, since you just sprang yourselves on the world yesterday, clearly none of the “public whom [you] serve” has had the opportunity to donate yet, and yet you’ve somehow managed to find the money to hire a staff, build a kick-ass Web site hosted in the Amazon cloud (which isn’t free), and do a big email blast which also isn’t free. Who bankrolled the creation of your organization? Who’s continuing to pouring money into it until it is really able to support itself from “small donations,” if indeed that ever occurs?

As far as I can tell, your mailing address is a private home within a housing development. What’s up with that?

Your Web site makes reference to your Bylaws, but said Bylaws are not published in full anywhere on the site.

Your Web site claims that you are a 501(c)3 organization, but neither Network for Good’s nor GuideStar’s database of all registered 501(c)3 charities lists you (at least not under the name “Nation of Change”, and rather than providing your EIN on your Web site, you say, “Your donation email receipt will include all relevant tax information, including the NationofChange Tax EIN number.” Again, what are you trying to hide? Why haven’t you published your EIN on your Web site?

Are you aware that BBB standards for charitable accountability require a minimum of five voting members? Your board has only four, one of which is your executive director, an arrangement which is discouraged by the BBB and charity watchdogs for reasons which should be obvious.

Should we be concerned about the fact that your Director of Development has the same last name as your Executive Director? Are they both paid positions? Nepotism is a big problem in poorly run charities.

For all I know, a year or two from now I will be awestruck by the good your organization has done after springing from out of nowhere. But right now, I’m not awestruck. Instead, I’m suspicious. Really, really suspicious. Is that the first impression you wanted to make on your potential supporters?


Jonathan Kamens


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33 thoughts on ““Nation of Change”, who are you and why are you spamming me?

  1. Susan Master

    Is there any update on this? We’re in 2013 now. I’m getting daily asks from them to raise $25,000 and just saw this post. I’ve requested their financials and a list of their board. I’ve sent them at least $100 re:Monsanto.

    1. jik Post author

      I have no reason to believe that any of the questions I’ve raised here have been answered in any substantive way. Please see in particular my comment below, if you haven’t already.

      I absolutely would not give any money to this organization.

  2. Carla

    I got something from them today. Coincidentally, I had just filled out a NewsMax survey yesterday saying I was an Obama supporter, so that tells me something. They’re very devious.

  3. Lili Francklyn

    PS. the most suspicious thing of all is that they don’t have Truthout in their list of recommended sites, so obviously they don’t want people to compare and realize that the content is virtually identical.

    1. jik Post author

      I have it on good authority that the guy running things behind the scenes at NoC used to work for Truthout and left. He’s totally invisible at NoC because he had a non-compete agreement with Truthout, so he and NoC would have gotten in trouble if it was clear that he was the one running things.

      Most of the people who are on the “staff” of NoC are either his friends and relatives or rubes on the Internet who he sweet-talked into participating in the site. I have been led to believe that at least one person who was ostensibly a senior staff member at NoC, was actually a staff member in name only and left the organization after realizing what was going on.

      I think it is extremely suspicious that there is zero transparency about how much money NoC is taking in or where it is going. I am not entirely convinced that all of it, or even a significant portion, is going to progressive causes.

  4. Lili Francklyn

    It appears I’m coming to this party a little late but I just recently began getting frequent fundraising emails from Nation of Change. And gullible as I am I just assumed that they were yes, progressives, but trying to elbow their way into an already crowded fundraising scene. So I fired off an irate email asking them how they thought they compared to Truthout and saying that it annoys me that progressives frequently start their own organizations for pure ego reasons, rather than teaming up with existing groups to create efficiencies!!

    Gullible because I never suspected that they might just be a pure scam, sucking money out of not-wealthy progressives that are already totally overwhelmed with fundraising requests.

    They need a serious slapdown. And yes, where are they getting these articles and what is their permission to publish them?

    By they way they are not listed on the IRS site as a 501(c)3.


  5. jillian123456

    everyone here is onto them: it’s true that they are a scam…taking money from people used to receiving requests from money from legitimate progressive independent news organizations. they just try to look like them, use the same kind of key words (especially the ones that trigger strong emotions). now they are trying to move people by saying that they are contributing to and participating in great “causes,” like “going after” those most commonly reviled demons monsanto, koch, and helping the occupy movement (as if the occupy movement needed an unscrupulous middle man). their website says “we’re standing with our brothers and sisters in the streets. we’re disobeying. we’re getting arrested.” they SHOULD be arrested. is there any way to get the IRS to audit these posers before they trick more people out of their money? ugh. faith in humanity…waning…

  6. Ryan N.

    Hiding your WHOIS information is a common practice. My church used to do it as well, for no good reason. I don’t think you can ascertain anything in particular that way.

    1. jik Post author

      The domain registrars push “private registration” as a premium service, with all sorts of scare tactics about why it’s worth the money they charge for it, and suckers^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hinexperienced people sometimes fall for it, as in the church example you gave.

      The folks running Nation Of Change know better.

      I agree with you that in isolation you can’t learn anything from it, but as part of a clear pattern, it is indicative.

  7. BBsGirl

    I have been receiving spam from them at my college e-mail address, that I don’t use for anything accept staying in contact with my teachers so someone is doing something dishonest.

  8. Shelly Wallman

    Nation of Change is constantly asking for donations so that the work of the Occupy Movement can go on. Say what? What does Nation of Change have to do with the Occupy Movement other than trying to make money off their name and work.

  9. pcbill

    This Nation of Change has harassed me for months now and refuses to un-subscribe me. Not only that, but they spam my 10 year old sons email account with the same request ignored. These are very bad people. I will call the FBI the next time they send my under age child something.

  10. Jenifer Cartwright

    I immediately suspected/continue to suspect Michael Moore — I often get loooong e-letters from him, and his newest book and his many appearances and activities are featured-promoted on Nation of Change. He got my email address legitimately b/c I ordered a free DVD of his film Slacker Uprising.

    I agree with the positive comments about Chomsky and about Nation of Change itself, form and content… but the lack of ownership-transparency-accountability has been a problem for me from the start.

  11. Steve Newcomb

    I didn’t think about this interesting service very much until they started collecting money for OWS participants. It didn’t smell right. Where’s the audit? Who are these people, really? Now I found this blog by clever Googling.

    There have been some other weird things, too. Like the preference for Facebook credentials over their own, and the tendency of the webpages to discard a written note in order to collect enough authorization to post it.

    I’m not sending any money, but I came very very close to doing so. I bet they’re collecting a lot of money and spending it on their own salaries. Perfectly legal behavior for a nonprofit. Caveat contributor! I bet there are a lot of OWS-based scams. Better to go to an ongoing OWS site, see what’s needed yourself, and deliver it yourself. Trust no one to do your charitable or political work for you!

    1. jik Post author

      The FBI, FTC, FCC, etc. don’t go after anybody online unless they’ve got overwhelming proof of a crime that has damaged many, many people. Something like this is miles beneath their radar.

      Aside from that, there’s no evidence here that they are a “fraud” in the sense that would imply that an actual prosecutable crime has been committed.

  12. NS

    Can someone please tell me if it is SAFE AND EFFECTIVE TO CLICK THE “UNSUBSCRIBE” LINK on this spam-mail?

    1. hoping to be anonymous

      I do NOT recommend unsubscribing. I did it and not only did it not unsubscribe me, but I have a spitload of new spam. So much for NWO, OWS. Control the hounds. SPAM IT.

  13. Talleyrand

    While I disagree with the view that Chomsky is a crackpot (he has very tough views, but he backs them up, plus he is also a major linguistics thinker, so don’t denigrate someone you merely disagree with)… I also ma profoundly suspicious of NoC. It’s merely another news aggregator. That would not be a problem, but they did start raising money for the OWS cause. And that is where my alarm bells go off….. They were looking for submissions, so as a journalist, I wrote back…. several times…. my BS-o-meter hit about 150 with the answers…

    Stick to Bartcop, Truthout, Alternet…

  14. NS

    Can someone please tell me if it is SAFE AND EFFECTIVE TO CLICK THE “UNSUBSCRIBE” LINK on this spam-mail?

    I tried just typing info@nationofchange.org and http://www.nationofchange.org into my browser (instead of clicking on their Unsubscribe link, which my email provider indicates “just confirms your address and may result in more spam”), but just came up with dead ends.

    I rarely give out my email address (or even order online), and wonder if this spam came as a result of my volunteering for a political party in the 2004 presidential election?!

  15. Chaya

    The officers of the “company,” four women, don’t seem to exist. At least Google has never heard of them. Compared to them, I’m famous. The “company” address, 6319 Dante Ln NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114, shows a non-descript suburban house crammed in with a bunch of other non-descript suburban houses in Rio Rancho, a new ticky-tack city built buy developers across the river from Albuquerque.

    I’d say someone has found a nifty way to tide herself through a bad economy. (Work? Why?) And when she’s finished sending off another load of spam, she goes around the corner to the Lottaburger for lunch and to wait for another slew of white envelopes packed with money to arrive at the post office.

    Nice gig.

    I’ve seen a lot of these con-games turning up on the Internet lately.

  16. Anonymous

    The officers of the “company,” four women, don’t seem to exist. At least Google has never heard of them. Compared to them, I’m famous. The “company” address, 6319 Dante Ln NW, Albuquerque, NM 87114, shows a non-descript suburban house crammed in with a bunch of other non-descript suburban houses in Rio Rancho, a new ticky-tack city built buy developers across the river from Albuquerque.

    I’d say someone has found a nifty way to tide herself through a bad economy. (Work? Why?) And when she’s finished sending off another load of spam, she goes around the corner to the Lottaburger for lunch and to wait for another slew of white envelopes packed with money to arrive at the post office.

    Nice gig.

    I’ve seen a lot of these con-games turning up on the Internet lately.

  17. Foster

    I’ve actually been reading the articles for the past month thinking that I had subscribed. But I noticed recently that they just take Truthout.org articles and pass them off as their own, same format and everything.

    1. jik Post author

      I’ve heard that there are a number of other prominent web sites whose publishers are quite upset with Nation of Change for stealing their content without even attribution, let alone doing it the right way, which is to post only an excerpt with a link to the original article.

  18. Paul

    thanks for pointing this out. I hadn’t really thought about it but you are absolutely right. I’m curious about how you tag your email address.. seems like a good idea.

  19. claus lynggaard

    Thank you very much, Jonathan Kamens!
    You did what probably a lot of think of doing: made at protest. And a very thorough one, too. I am all with you, and haven read your comment I was convinced to click the unsubscibe button – which of course directed me to their website. Makes me doubt wether the UNsubscibe button really works. We’ll see.
    Cheers, Claus Lynggaard

  20. Pingback: IMPORTANT UPDATE on Brave New Foundation and Nation of Change « Something better to do

  21. Pingback: Nation of Change trying to cover their tracks? « Something better to do

  22. Jean-Louis

    I also had a similar experience and wondered when I subscribed to this newsletter. So thank you to Jonathan Kamens for throwing some light on the matter.
    Nevertheless, like Rourke, I find these newsletters extremely stimulating and challenging. Besides the layout of the pages is very pleasant and colourful, and so are the fonts and the point size used. This is an added bonus.
    I do not dislike Noam Chomsky. He is a brilliant mind, a great academic and as a lingusit I can only admire his work. There is no crack in that head of his, believe me!
    Far from being an anarchist, or rather “anarcho-syndicalist” myself, I respect people who have the guts to challenge the status quo!

    1. jik Post author

      In response to this and the previous comment… Whether or not the content is appealing is completely beside the point. It’s clear that Nation of Change is engaging in questionable practices and hiding a lot of important information about themselves. This makes the output of their labors fruit of the poisoned tree, and you’d be a fool to trust any of it.

      Putting it another way, if they are being intentionally deceptive about their origins and practices, then they are surely being intentionally deceptive about the material they publish as well.

      There’s something very Homer Simson-like about this… “I’m outraged that they subscribed me without my permission! That’s totally unaccept– ooh, look at that nice page layout and pretty fonts!” Um, hello? The fact that their newsletter looks good is far less important than the fact that they’ve proven themselves to be untrustworthy.

      And as for your praise for Noam Chomsky, if you feel that way about him, you’re as much a fool as he is.

  23. Rourke

    I’ve had the same experience in the last fortnight, and yet I’m always finding something worth reading in it. Very odd spam, that actually stimulates my mind


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