The White House hired a private communications company based in Minnesota to distribute mass e-mails, helping to shed light on how some recipients received e-mails in support of President Obama's health care plan without signing up for them, FOX News has learned.
The company, Govdelivery, describes itself as the world's leading provider of government-to-citizen communication solutions and says its e-mail service provides a fully-automated on-demand public communication system.
It is still unknown how much taxpayer money the White House provides to Govdelivery for its services.
The revelation comes after the White House acknowledged this week that people were receiving unsolicited e-mails from the administration about health care reform and suggested the problem was with third-party groups that placed the recipients' names on the distribution list.
Republicans quickly pounced on the news.
"This is yet another ominous chapter in the administration's rabid campaign to jam its radical health care scheme onto an unwilling public by any means necessary," Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan said in a statement.
Govdelivery sent hundreds of e-mails from senior adviser David Axelrod asking supporters to help rebut criticism of Obama's health care plan circulating on the Internet. It also sent e-mails highlighting Obama's speech to the Muslim world in Cairo and the announcement of Sonia Sotomayor as a Supreme Court nominee.
Several FOX News viewers complained they received these e-mails even though they had never requested any communication from the White House.
On Monday, the White House implemented several new changes to its Web site, apparently aimed at reducing the number of people who receive unsolicited e-mails and at fighting charges that it's collecting personal information on critics.
The White House also pulled the plug on a controversial e-mail address, email@example.com, that was established for supporters to report "fishy" information about health care reform.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., has sent a letter to the White House asking for the "full truth" behind the Axelrod e-mails and expressing concern that "political e-mail address lists were used for official purposes."
Chris Hansen, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union told FOX News that if the White House used the private firm, it's the same as if it had sent the e-mails.
The White House insists that Govdelivery aggregates nothing and plays no role in the formation of its e-mail list; it is merely an end-product e-mail distributor.
Govdelivery does extensive work with a bevy of federal, state, and local agencies, including 11 Cabinet-level departments such as Defense, State, and Justice. Among the tasks Govdelivery performs are FBI internal e-mails and external regional crime alerts, and FEMA hurricane or other natural disaster alerts.
In fact, before Jan. 1, Govdelivery handled 85 percent of mass e-mail deliveries for federal agencies.
The White House said it hired Govdelivery based on its performance with those agencies. The company was hired after Jan. 1 but before Obama took office on Jan. 20.
Earlier this week, Govdelivery's president, Scott Burns, declined to comment to FOX News on whether the White House had used his firm to send out the Axelrod e-mails.
FOX News' Major Garrett and Eric Shawn contributed to this report.