Concerns raised about GFT e-activist system - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Concerns raised about GFT e-activist system

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by Heather Hauswirth

The Guam Federation of Teachers has been lobbying its members to take action and oppose a number of measures that went up for a legislative vote today.  The union's web site makes it all too easy to set someone up for a case of identity fraud.

But the union president contends it's just another way to encourage their membership to be involved in the democratic process.

The GFT's web site has a pre-written template urging its union members and residents alike to take action by e-mailing senators directly to vote 'no' on several measures including Bill 175,, which is currently in the Voting File at the Guam Legislature.  The bill would allow the Guam Power Authority and Guam Waterworks Authority to enter into long-term contracts for up to 30 years.

It makes for legislation that GFT President and Senator Matt Rector vehemently opposes, saying, "It's a horrible bill that would suck away good careers for the people of Guam and give them to corporations."

But the GFT's site and pre-set templates have become a point of contention, as some senators have received e-mails from individuals who never even participated in the GFT e-activist web form, yet somehow their names were sent to senators stating their position on legislative measures.  Such is the case for KUAM News Director Sabrina Salas Matanane who is currently on maternity leave.

Senator B.J. Cruz received such an e-mail from Matanane and said he was alarmed, telling KUAM News, "I've known her [Sabrina] for several years, and didn't think she took positions; so I responded to her and said I would take it into consideration, but was surprised she was taking a public position on a piece of legislation currently before the Legislature.  She has since responded that she did not send that e-mail to me.  And I'm satisfied that she didn't."

On Thursday we asked Rector how this could happen.  "I have noticed there that if you have an autoresponder - some autoresponders that people have on your e-mail will automatically send it out - and that is something I will have to talk to Cambio about...I don't understand the technology and how it works, but I've noticed some with autoresponders, it does that," he stated.

But even noting the problems with the web site, and the fact that there are no safety mechanisms in place as an individual can log on and type-in anyone's name and e-mail address to lobby senators, Rector refused to do an interview with KUAM today when asked whether the union would shut down its site until the problem is rectified.  In fact, the lawmaker has decided that he will only do live interviews with KUAM, as he claims "taped interviews are edited for their spin".

Meanwhile, the lobbying efforts by the GFT and the senator's involvement in that process has some of his colleagues concerned.  Judi Won Pat, speaker of the 30th Legislature, said, "I think its incumbent on every member to look at that, and even if there is the slightest conflict of interest, they should always take that road and be prepared and be safe."

"As senator," said Senator Frank Blas, Jr., "you serve the interest of all the people and you've got to serve the interest of all. He is using his means as president to further his position as senator, and that is not right."

Whether the senator has a conflict of interest is something we leave to you to decide.

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