WASHINGTON – “B Strong,” the banner says. Stripped atop the homepage of the Democratic National Committee, the message, using the red “B” of the Boston Red Sox logo, encourages people to thank the emergency personnel who responded to last week’s Boston Marathon bombings.
But the simple note of gratitude to Boston police, firefighters, and EMTs has drawn criticism, denounced by Republicans as a “political ploy” soon after it debuted on Monday.
In addition to writing their full names and an optional message, users must also provide their e-mail addresses and zip codes — valuable currency for any political operation that is in the business of maintaining databases for fund-raising and volunteer work. By submitting their information, users agree to grant the committee permission to use the information for political and advertising purposes.
Those who add their names to the list receive an e-mail from Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, encouraging them to share the note among their family and friends via Facebook and Twitter.
“We want to make sure that these true American heroes receive all the thanks they deserve,” Schultz writes. “Can you help spread the word?”
Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee, called the data mining “disgraceful” and in “very poor taste” in a Tweet posted Monday. He accuses Democrats of “capitalizing on terrorism and Boston’s first responders to boost their fund-raising lists.”
Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse flipped the criticism back to Republicans, saying on Twitter, “What’s disgraceful is that @GOP would politicize expressions of support for first responders. You should be thanking them too.”
In response to a Globe e-mail and phone call asking how the 30,000 e-mails collected will be used, Woodhouse said the committee would not be using any of the e-mail data for fund-raising. “We never planned to,” he wrote on Twitter, “And in fact we aren’t even keeping the data.” He said the whole effort was to deliver messages of support to first responders.
Ian Prior, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Tuesday that “no matter how the Democratic National Committee tries to spin it, the fact is that they are using the Boston Marathon bombing to collect data that will be used for voter contact and fund-raising.”
US Representative Stephen Lynch said in an interview Tuesday that the Democratic National Committee should have allowed people to thank first responders without capturing their e-mails. “That might have saved them from the accusation that they were using it politically,” said Lynch, who is running in a Democratic Senate primary election against US Representative Edward Markey.
“Their heart was in the right place, but maybe they could have handled it a little better,” he said. Lynch said it is “reassuring” to hear Woodhouse say the e-mails would not be used for fund-raising.
By Tuesday evening, the thank-you note disappeared from the committee’s homepage, a move Woodhouse said was already planned. Supporters could still access the link via the committee’s Facebook page.