White House fires back at Rove over e-mails sent during healthcare push

Karl Rove, former President George W. Bush's political adviser, has criticized the e-mails, some of which were sent to federal employees, and suggested the White House may have violated a federal law.

The e-mails would typically conflict with the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from using their e-mail resources to promote political activity.

But White House new media chief Macon Phillips stressed on Sunday no such violation occurred, as those getting the e-mails can choose not to receive them. He also blasted Rove for making "false" comments.

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"Take, for example, recent outlandish and false allegations in the news that the White House has sent unsolicited emails to drum up support for reform," Phillips wrote on the White House blog, just hours before the House passed the healthcare bill.

"Let's be clear -- and done -- with this incorrect claim: the White House only sends mass messages to email addresses submitted through email signup forms on WhiteHouse.gov," he said. "And every message we send has a clear unsubscribe link at the footer to stop receiving messages at any time."

"This is simply not true and unless Mr. Rove can point to a White House email making this request of anyone, federal employee or otherwise, he should correct this dangerous and inaccurate assertion," Phillips added.

E-mail has long been a staple element of the Obama administration's communications effort. The president's campaign arm, Organizing for America, maintains a vast e-mail database that Democratic strategists often tap to move party members to action, while the White House operates a separate list.

Democrats tapped both this weekend as they worked feverishly to pass their healthcare bill.

However, the political right feels the White House's e-mail efforts violate longstanding rules that prevent federal officials from using government resources to lobby employees.

Yet, the White House has largely dismissed those claims as an attempt to derail healthcare reform. In a separate statement Sunday, the administration also blasted a blogger for failing to "contact us before writing" to clarify the White House's procedures on e-mail campaigns.

"Emailed updates about health insurance reform legislation are sent periodically to members of the public who sign up to receive them. No one is sent unsolicited emails," said Linda Douglass, communications director in the Office of Health Reform.