Wonky

Mysterious Anti-Obama Spam Texts Linked To Republican Consulting Group

A screenshot of an anti-Obama text message received Tuesday evening.

hide captionA screenshot of an anti-Obama text message received Tuesday evening.

NPR

If you're using social media to follow the presidential campaign or even if you're related to someone else who's doing that, there's a good chance your cellphone got spammed Tuesday night with an anti-Obama text message.

The messages went out between 7:30 and 10 p.m. They were anonymous but quickly traced to a Republican consulting firm in Northern Virginia.

The messages appeared to be targeted mostly at cellphones from the Washington, D.C., 202 area code. But some were also sent to area codes outside the Beltway, including one to a St. Louis number and another to a private email address.

Some of the messages slam President Obama on the usual issues.
For instance, "re-electing Obama puts Medicare at risk" read one text. Another sent out the message, "Obama Lied About Libya – What else could he be lying about?"

But many others, the ones dealing with same-sex marriage and abortion, had a sharper edge: "Obama supports homosexuality and its radical agenda" and "if re-elected Obama will use taxpayer money to fund abortion."

The websites sending these messages have names like GOP messagers and Democrat Liars.

Federal law generally prohibits the sending of political robocalls and robo-texts to cellphones. But those provisions don't address emails that are sent to cellphones as text messages.

The sites were registered at the Web hosting company Go Daddy.com. On Wednesday, Go Daddy suspended them.

Nick Fuller, a spokesman for Go Daddy, says its terms of service are clear cut.

"When a customer uses a domain name registered thru Go Daddy to participate in activities such as spamming via email or text messaging, instant messages, pop-ups, that's not something that we tolerate," Fuller says.

It appears that all of the websites related to the text messages were registered by employees of a Republican consulting firm, ccAdvertising of Centreville, Va.

The firm's website brags about its ability to reach cellphones.

It says its clients have included McDonald's; Starbucks; Grover Norquist's anti-tax advocacy group, Americans for Tax Reform; and GOP politician Ken Cuccinelli, now Virginia's attorney general.

In an email conversation with NPR, ccAdvertising's president, Gabriel Joseph, wouldn't address the messages sent last night. He said the firm has always scrupulously complied with the law.

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