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Democrats Upset Over Tricky Text Messages

by Katie Pyzyk — October 27, 2011 at 3:00 pm 2,742 56 Comments

The Democratic Party of Virginia says it has been getting reports of residents receiving unsolicited political text messages.

The text messages sharply criticize Democratic political candidates in Virginia. The party says the texts are unsolicited and likely illegal.

“The DPVA has reason to believe that these text messages are illegal and we are doing everything we can to determine where they are coming from,” the party said in an email. “Virginia Republicans… [have] resorted to the usual underhanded tricks trying to scare, intimidate or confuse voters.”

This morning, an ARLnow.com reader reported having received the texts. The reader called the messages “pretty dirty” and wondered who was sending them. (The texts reportedly came from the same 410 area code phone number that sends out Arlington Alert text messages.)

The readouts of the reader’s messages are as follows:

SUBJ:Taxes
MSG:OBAMA & his VA DEMOCRAT allies want to RAISE YOUR TAXES. Send a message. DO NOT vote for VA Democrats on 11/08/11

FRM:Concerned Parents
SUBJ:Busted
MSG:Dave Marsden voted to allow Ffx County Schools to HIDE FROM PARENTS when they discipline kids. Ask Dave why.

The DPVA wants anybody who has received an unsolicited text message to call a hotline at 866-529-7620, file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission and file a complaint in small claims court.

“Please help us hold the Republicans accountable for these underhanded and illegal tricks,” the party said.

A spokesman for Republican Party of Virginia said they heard about the problem, but have no involvement with sending unsolicited texts and in no way condone the behavior.

  • MC 703

    I got one on my work Blackberry. Kinda laughed it off. I hope no one is dumb enough to vote based on a text message with an animated smiley in it.

  • ballscrossingurface

    I got one too and was like WTF…it came from the same # ZipCar uses to text

  • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

    Well, while annoying, I’m not so sure illegal. Isn’t it just like an unsolicited political phone call? I get them all the time. Hell, I even had President Obama leave a message on my voice mail last election.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      You had a message from him on your voice mail in ’08 too? Shoot, back in 2000 Bill Clinton called me and wanted me to vote for Gore (recorded message). Did you get a call from Clinton back in 2000?

      • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

        I think so. Not sure because I often just hit delete before much of anything gets out (regardless of the candidate).

        • Bluemontsince1961

          You and me both. The moment I hear the political recording start, I hit erase. If I answer and there is a pause then a recorded message starts, I hang up. Doesn’t matter which party or candidate, I don’t want any of them calling me.

      • Monica L.

        Bill used to leave me voicemails all the time too that involved going to the poll for him…though probably a lot different then the one’s he left you.

        • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

          LOL!

        • Sonny Moon

          Monica,

          Do you mean “poll” or “pole”?

    • Steamboat Willie

      You shouldn’t have given him your number.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        I think political (and charitable) organizations get phone number lists from the phone company. If my belief is correct, that might be how they got OB’s number.

        BTW, political and charitable organizations are exempt from the do not call lists, if my understanding of the do not call law(s) is correct. I’d like to have both parties’ political organizations stop calling me, but that isn’t an option apparently.

        • RK

          As someone who used to work for a campaign, the only real way to get taken off the list permanently is to tell the caller that the person they are looking for has moved out of state or is dead.

          If you don’t want to do that, a lot of times the caller has been given a question to ask (usually “Who are you planning on voting for?”) and have been told to keep calling until they get a definitive answer. If that’s the case, just answering the question will often get them off your back as long as you don’t say you are undecided – if you are undecided, you go on a list of people to try and convince.

          Also, keep in mind that campaigns are not usually coordinated very well – it’s not “the Democrats” calling, it’s the presidential campaign and also the senate campaign and also the congressional campaign and also any local races with the funding for a phone bank.

          And finally, when the inevitable get-out-the-vote calls start closer to election day, just tell them you voted absentee already and they will check you off the list.

          • RK

            And yes, political calls are completely exempt from the Do Not Call list. DNC legislation was passed by politicians, after all.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Natch! Gotta keep pestering people. I may consider one of the options you outlines to stop their calls.

          • RK

            Yeah, I know it’s annoying, but unfortunately it’s also the way to win elections these days. (Normal political calls I mean, not smear stuff like above.)

            Remember too that the person who is calling you more than likely has no idea whether you have been called before, asked to be removed etc – due to the way the lists are drawn up and to prevent the person tasked with the calls from despairing, that information is usually not visible to him/her.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Heck of a way just to get them to stop calling!

    • drax

      You could, like, look it up to find out.

      Spam: Unwanted Text Messages and Email
      Background

      Many consumers find unsolicited email – also known as spam – annoying and time-consuming. In addition, unwanted messages sent to wireless phones and other wireless devices can be intrusive and costly. In 2003, Congress enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act to curb spam. As required by the Act, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted rules that prohibit sending unwanted commercial email messages to wireless devices without prior permission. This ban took effect in March 2005.

      http://www.fcc.gov/guides/spam-unwanted-text-messages-and-email

      • Burger

        Which does not apply to political spamming – email, text or commercial. So this point like many of yours is irrelevant.

      • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

        That doesn’t stop squat. I get unwanted calls and texts on my cell phone all the time. So, I downloaded an app that allows me to tag the phone numbers of the unwanted callers. Next time they call back, the app hits them with a bunch of noise when the phone answers and they can’t leave a message. It has drastically reduced my unwanted call volume. Nothing like a bunch of loud screaching noise in your headset when you try to sell me your crap to discourage a call back.

    • RK

      I’m not positive, but I think the problem might be that they don’t ID who they are/what organization is paying. Political calls are required to do that, I’m pretty sure.

      • CW

        @OB…if people are receiving them from the numbers that Arlington Alert and ZipCar use, I’m pretty sure that whatever’s being done is illegal. Unless you’re cool with people just sending things out from your number, which I doubt you are.

        • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

          Not sure how that is done, but certainly if it is a hack job then that’s another story. Otherwise, there are programs out there to legitimately mass send text messages and I don’t think that is illegal.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    Maybe this is the work of hackers?

  • Swag

    From: 1410000001
    FRM: nova@ettsurvey.com
    SUBJ: Taxes
    MSG: OBAMA & his VA DEMOCRAT allies want to RAISE YOUR TAXES. Sens a message. DO NOT VOTE for VA Democrats on 11/08/11.

    Received at 10:09pm, 10/22/11

  • Chris

    Sounds similar to the Republican tactic used in Maryland whereby robocalls went out on election day to democrat-leaning districts saying the democratic candidate already won, and they they can “relax”.

    Are we going to be getting text messages urging us to go to the polls on November 9th? They tried that one in Wisconsin too.

    • R

      Well there has to be a way of balancing out the Democratic tactics of vote early and often, unions and campaigns busing people to polling places, Acorn and others registering and voting for dead people, etc. There are dirty and illegal tactics on both sides.

      • Juanita de Talmas

        ACORN? Really?

      • Chris

        There is no credible evidence of voter fraud occuring at the polls. There are no dead people going to vote, that’s all a Republican smokescreen to support their disenfranchisement initiatives.

        This equivocation of “everyone does it” so we have to “balance it out” is bullshit.

  • RK

    I got the Dave Marsden one, but it came from concernedparents@2011voters.com . Kind of weird because it came as a text to my non-smartphone.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    Democrats, Republicans, they all resort to dirty and sneaky tricks, especially at election time.

    • drax

      Ah, that makes it okay!

      • Bluemontsince1961

        No, it doesn’t make it OK at all! Both sides do it and have for a long time. Its just how politics is. Doesn’t make it OK or right for either side.

        • drax

          Okay, just checking.

    • Steamboat Willie

      Sort of true, but the recent past has seen operatives one party, the Republicans, actually being tried and convicted of illegal voter suppression efforts. The aforementioned case in Maryland and the phone jamming case in New Hampshire back in 2004 are two of the higher profile cases.

      But it’s easier to say everybody does it.

      • Carl

        You forgot to mention the Democrats who slashed the tires of the Republican volunteer’s vans. But of course you would forget that.

      • R

        Or ACORN or the Black Panthers intimidating voters in Philly. I’d say those were pretty recent too.

        • Steamboat Willie

          Yeah, those Black Panthers really scared away the 6 registered Republicans in that Philly housing project. Probably swayed the election.

          • Andrew

            Right…it was only six people, so it doesn’t matter.

        • Brendan

          Yeah. There are plenty of examples of this on both sides of the aisles…. Republicans also rent a fleet of crown vics with clean shaven white guys to stand directly in front of polling locations in majority black precincts to try to intimidate and dissuade voters. They’ve also put out billboards in highly democratic areas w/ the wrong election date, handed out literature listing the Republicans as the Democratic ticket in urban dem precincts and then my favorite is… creating some fake robocall to blame democrats.

          Have seen it all. Both sides do it. It’s pathetic.

          Regarding this bit of tomfoolery…
          First off, it’s disrespectful to send an unsolicited message that costs people money or counts against a quota which they pay for.

          Secondly the legality of this is questionable, but… I’m not aware of anything that makes it explicitly illegal in terms of federal law. Sometime before the 2004 election the FEC gave SMS an exemption to the disclaimer requirments… so even if this were under the FEC’s jurisdiction, which it appears that it’s not, the lack of a disclaimer is not illegal. Not too familiar with Virginia election law, but the deliberate deception and/or concealment of identity might be illegal.

          Both domains are empty… registered privately through godaddy… ettsurvey at the beginning of the year 2011voters in the last week. the number is spoofed which i think is probably the most likely to be illegal part of the whole thing. Curious to see how this plays out… If anyone is a godaddy employee, knows someone there, or has some other way around the private registration figuring out who is behind all this wouldn’t be too tough. I guess you could always spoof the domain, but if they’re privately registered zombies, i doubt they did that.

  • TGEoA

    If you use Vonage or a similar VOIP solution that allows simulring, then you can use a google voice number to stop almost every telemarketer and election type call.

    http://fasttimes68.blogspot.com/2011/05/vonage-call-blocking-hack.html

  • mickey644

    HA HA HA HA what a bunch of whining wimps! HA HA HA HA

  • Lindsey V

    I love how someone in the Democratic Party accuse the Whole Republican party for this since they’re underhanded. “Please help us hold the Republicans accountable for these underhanded and illegal tricks,” the party said.
    .. Couldn’t the same remark be said of the Democratic Party? They could possibly be the ones sending out such text messages as a public relations boost to make republicans look bad??? Until the guilty party is found, it’s brash to make any such accusations.

    • http://www.exactcom.com.au/proofs/KombiPics/Wrecks/bayBushOvergrown.jpg Overgrown Bush

      Lindsey, if they are a politician, they are underhanded regardless of party.

    • Brendan

      hah… if the Dems did what you’re claiming, they’d be pulling a page right out of Karl Rove’s notebook.

      Rove did that to my office personally on one campaign… They were pulling every stupid stunt in the book, mailing fetus pictures to hispanics saying blood would be on their hands if they voted for a dem, having the county close and perform streetwork in front of one of our headquarters, sending out misleading robocalls, mailing incorrect polling location information to african americans, etc.

      Then they come out and say we’re playing dirty tricks targeting seniors with misleading ads, late night robocalls and scare tactics… We hadn’t done anything close to what they accused us of and couldn’t have even if we wanted to (lack of $/resources). That didn’t matter though, the editors at the local papers got such stiffy’s from talking to “the architect” (tho not known as such at the time) that they published every wild accusation he and the regional party officials could come up with.

      oh memories.

  • Lauren

    Laws around texting vs. calling are different – and if you didn’t opt in to receive a text message from this entity, it is certainly illegal spam. You can buy and trade phone/mail/email lists till the cows come home, but the regulations around cell phone numbers and text messages are actually stricter in many ways.

    Definitely report these texts if you got one – nail those silly Republicans.

  • Pingback: Democrats accuse GOP of scaring Va. voters with unsolicited texts – Washington Post (blog)

  • Pingback: Democratic Party Leaders Suspect Dirty Tricks in Flood of Foul Texts – FairfaxNews.com

  • Sonny Moon

    These spam text messages are very annoying. I can’t imagine they do any good at swaying voter opinion. They just piss people off, wouldn’t you think?

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