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Passing Financial Privacy Legislation

When opponents of strong financial privacy protections claimed our privacy was not at risk, we proved the point in a novel way.

We bought the Social Security numbers of Attorney General John Ashcroft, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and other cabinet officials on the Internet for $26.

When California legislation to protect financial privacy stalled in the statehouse, we decided to up the ante. We easily and legally bought the Social Security numbers of all the state legislators who opposed the legislation or refused to vote on it. Then we put up their partial Social Security numbers on the Internet along with the partial Social Security number of Governor Gray Davis.

The politicians went ballistic. They called on the California Highway Patrol and attorney general to investigate and prosecute Consumer Watchdog’s president Jamie Court. Their hot reaction to a risk to their personal privacy proved our point. It allowed us to turn the media spotlight they created onto their own failure to be concerned about the privacy of the public at large.

The legislators drew attention to their own hypocrisy. Later that year, the California financial privacy protection legislation was revived, passed by the legislature and signed into law by 


Excerpted from The Progressive's Guide to Raising Hell: How To Win Grassroots Campaigns, Pass Ballot Box Laws And Get The Change We Voted For (Chelsea Green).