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.
The confirmation 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.
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.
FOX News viewers complained they received these e-mails even though they had never requested any communication from the White House.
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.
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.
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, 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, the White House said.
The White House notes that Govdelivery also handles mass e-mails for Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, both Republicans.
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.
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.