Did the Romney Campaign Just Get Punk'd Again?

Republican's team says a group in Europe spammed people with Romney fundraising E-mails.

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Two weeks ago, the Mitt Romney campaign was seemingly punk'd when the GOP presidental candidate's Twitter account suddenly picked up more than 100,000 new Twitter followers in a single weekend. Many of the followers appeared to be bots, and the fake followers were used to make fun of Romney, as #MoreFakeMitt started trending on Twitter. Zac Moffatt, the Romney campaign's digital director, confirmed that the campaign had not bought the followers.

Today, the Romney campaign tells Whispers that there's been an online glitch once again.

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A number of people, some of whom seem unlikely to cast a vote for Mitt Romney, reported this week that they quite suddenly found themselves spammed by fundraising E-mails from the Romney campaign, many of which arrived at their workplaces or used other hard-to-find E-mail addresses.

Jillian York at the Electronic Freedom Foundation seems to have been the first to notice the spamming, as well as the commenters at the online community Democratic Underground.

York was perplexed at how the Romney campaign had obtained her E-mail, or why they would target her—a donor to Planned Parenthood, among other organizations she said were more in line with the policies of President Obama.

But the Romney campaign says that it isn't the one spamming voters.

Instead, the campaign told Whispers, it believes an unknown group in Europe obtained a number of E-mail addresses and, unbeknown to the Romney camp, subscribed them to the campaign's E-mail system.

The campaign says it is now working with both its E-mail provider and Internet service providers to remedy the situation.

It is unclear who this European group is. The only name on the fundraising E-mails is an Indiana-based company called ExactTarget, which appears to be legitimately working with the Romney campaign, and states in its anti-spam policy that it will never send mail to people who have not shared their addresses.

ExactTarget did not respond to a request for comment from Whispers, but responded to a complaint from York: "We can assure you that messages to your address from this account will cease."

Update, 6:00 p.m.:

ExactTarget tells York that the group who obtained and spammed the E-mail addresses was using Tor – a software that promises online anonymity – with a European IP address. The group could be U.S.-based, however, and have adopted a European IP address.

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.