Mainer’s with concealed handgun permits may think their names and addresses have been kept safe by emergency legislation passed in response to the Bangor Daily News’ public records request. In truth, these records have been in the hands of Democratic operatives since 2011.
A Washington, DC-based political targeting firm requested a list of Maine’s concealed handgun permit holders in July of 2011, according to records acquired by Gawker.com via a Freedom of Access Act Request and obtained by The Maine Wire. According to the documents, the Maine Department of Public Safety released a CD containing the information, including names and addresses for both resident and non-resident concealed carry permit holders, to Nick Kramer, manager for special data projects at Catalist, LLC.
Catalist’s mission is, according to its company website, “To provide progressive organizations with the data and services needed to better identify, understand, and communicate with the people they need to persuade and mobilize.”
The ‘Our Values’ section of the site states: “Catalist is committed to using our talents and technology to nurture a vibrant, growing, progressive community, and to working with that community towards a more just, equitable and tolerant America.”
Catalist’s distinguished clients include: President Barack Obama, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), several major Democratic campaign committees, Planned Parenthood, the National Education Association, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the Maine Democratic Party.
Seven other state-level Democratic parties are Catalist clients including the Ohio, Vermont, and Tennesee Democrats.
Deborah Reed, a spokeswoman for Catalist, said the firm uses publicly available records in their election models.
“We purchase all kinds of public records in order to enhance our voter turn-out models,” said Reed. She said that although Catalist’s databases and models are available to their clients, the Maine Democratic Party included, they do not typical sell raw information. “These records are available to any group who wants to request them,” she said.
A Maine Democratic Party spokesman declined to comment over the phone on whether the Party has obtained concealed carry permit information from Catalist. Messages left with Executive Director Mary-Erin Casale were not returned.
Rep. Corey S. Wilson (R-Augusta), the sponsor of a bill that would permanently exempt concealed carry permits from Maine’s public access laws, is concerned about political groups who have already obtained such data.
“I would call on the Maine Democratic Party to disclose whether they have received this information, what they have done with it, and what their intentions are for the future,” said Wilson.
“What are their intentions? Do they still have the data? What groups were they targeting?” Wilson asked.
Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine Executive Director David Trahan said it is disturbing how Maine’s freedom of access law is being abused by political groups.
“FOAA was designed for citizens to keep government in line, not for political targeting,” said Trahan, a former Republican representative from Eddington. “What these groups are doing was not part of the intention of the freedom of access laws.”
“It’s very disturbing to me that you have a political firm using freedom of access laws to get records held in the public trust and then profiting from the use of people’s personal information,” said Trahan.
Trahan said he believes political firms like Catalist use personal information acquired through FOAA requests to compile voter profile lists. He said records of concealed carry permit holders are likely combined with similar archives of data on Maine’s hunters and fisherman in order to help political groups like the Maine Democrats target voters with tailored messages.
“Democratic groups have made firearm ownership a major component of their database, probably because they’re weak with firearm owners,” said Trahan.
By S.E. Robinson
Maine Wire Reporter