An e-mail message inviting recipients to a fund-raiser for U.S. Senate candidate George F. Allen last night was sent to several foreign embassies and companies, but Virginia’s secretary of technology who sent the message said it was just a mistake.
Both Donald W. Upson, the secretary of technology, and Mr. Allen’s fund-raiser, Abby Farris, admit the mistake and say they didn’t mean for the May 9 e-mail message to go to foreigners. Soliciting contributions from foreign nationals is against federal election law.
“I regret that the list wasn’t scrubbed,” Mr. Upson said in a telephone interview yesterday.
Craig K. Bieber, executive director of the Virginia Democratic Party, said a campaign for federal office should know better than to make those kinds of mistakes.
“It seems to me like this is a significant error on behalf of the Allen campaign. They should be vetting all the solicitations,” he said.
Mr. Allen, a former governor of Virginia, will be the Republican nominee to run against Sen. Charles S. Robb, Virginia Democrat, in November.
The Allen campaign’s contracted fund-raiser, Miss Farris, provided the list of more than 900 addresses to Mr. Upson in hopes of drawing technology executives to last night’s fund-raiser in Tysons Corner, Va., where the campaign hoped to raise $225,000.
In the letter, Mr. Upson states that Mr. Allen, as governor, was critical in supporting the state’s technology community and asks recipients to support Mr. Allen’s Senate campaign.
Neither Mr. Upson nor Miss Farris could say how many recipients may have been foreign nationals.
E-mail addresses on the list include recipients at the Washington embassies of Hungary, Mexico and Thailand, several different government offices in the United Kingdom, South Africa’s official tourism agency, and German and Japanese companies.
Some of the recipients were well off target.
Delegate Kenneth R. Plum, Reston Democrat and chairman of the state Democratic Party, received the message. The e-mail also went to someone at the Heinrich Boll Foundation, a German-based organization whose Web page says it’s associated with the Green Party.
“If that doesn’t prove this is an honest mistake, I don’t what does,” said Tim Murtaugh, spokesman for the Allen campaign.
Steve Calos, director of open government advocacy group Common Cause of Virginia, sorted through the list to find some of the foreign e-mail addresses but said he hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll ask the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate.
“I just think it’s a foolish, clueless thing to do,” he said.
He sent a letter to the Allen campaign yesterday asking them to contact recipients about the solicitation.
Last night, the Allen campaign sent out another e-mail to the same list, informing the recipients that if they are foreign nationals, the original e-mail should not be considered a solicitation.
Ian Stirton, a spokesman for the FEC, said soliciting from a foreign national is against the law, but added that someone who works at a foreign company or embassy isn’t necessarily a foreign national.
Jose Antonio Zabalgoitia, minister of information and public affairs for the Mexican Embassy, said the embassy e-mail address listed is the Web master’s address essentially the embassy’s generic in-box for e-mail.
Messages left with several other embassies whose e-mail addresses were listed were not returned yesterday.
Mr. Upson left the list of recipients on the top of the e-mail, so every recipient can see who else received it. Making the list public, Mr. Upson said, proves he didn’t mean to solicit foreigners. Mr. Upson also said many of the e-mail messages didn’t go through to the addresses.
Miss Farris wouldn’t say who sold her the list, which she then gave to Mr. Upson. She said the campaign has not received any contributions from foreign nationals, that it would return any such contributions and that it made every effort to stay within campaign finance laws.
Two weeks ago, state Democrats chided Mr. Upson for the e-mail because he signed it in his capacity as technology secretary. Democrats said that was an unseemly politicization of the office.