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Beto O'Rourke's campaign faces class action lawsuit for sending unwanted campaign text messages

Image source: Tom Reel-Pool/Getty Images

Beto O’Rourke’s campaign is being sued over text messages it sent about the Democrat’s U.S. Senate run in Texas.

What happened?

A class action lawsuit  filed against the Beto for Texas campaign claims the group violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by sending the messages to Texans without their permission, the Star-Telegram reported. Under the Act, automated telephone equipment can only be used to send texts or call a person’s cellphone for emergency purposes.

The lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of Texas Court, names Collin County resident Sameer Syeed as the plaintiff on behalf of all Texas who received the messages, the report states.

Syeed said he received nine texts from Beto for Texas during 2018 without giving the group permission to contact him, the Star-Telegram reported. He repeatedly tried to stop the messages by texting back, but received no response.

The lawsuit demands that Beto for Texas pay at least $500 per text message to Syeed and others who join the lawsuit.

O'Rourke is competing against Sen. Ted Cruz, who is leading the race with a 54-45 margin, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll.

Chris Evans, communications director of Beto for Texas, maintains that the program is legal.

“Our grassroots volunteer program with thousands of Texans canvassing, phone banking, texting, and organizing is the largest this state has seen. It is fully compliant with the law,” he told the Star-Telegram.

Is this happening elsewhere?

Elsewhere, campaigns are buzzing up cellphones across Florida, the Sun Sentinel reported. The practice of texting voters is key communication mode for the 2018 elections. That’s because it’s fast, inexpensive and easy.

GOP political consultant Alex Patton told the news outlet he and two of his friends sent 33,000 texts about a Gainesville ballot initiative while drinking beers at a local brewery.

“It’s highly targetable,” said Patton, who owns Ozean Media. “It’s inexpensive. Until we screw it up, it’s the Holy Grail.”

Shelly Soffer, 40, of Coconut Creek, believes the messages are a nuisance.

“I'm annoyed beyond belief,” Soffer told the Sun Sentinel. “They are presumptuous and obnoxious and borderline harassment. I never gave my cellphone number out.”

The campaigns may be operating under a “gray area” of the law, the report states.

A coalition of leading peer-to-peer texting providers, the P2P Alliance, is asking the Federal Communications Commission to clarify that their practices are not subject to consumers protections under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

In its petition to the agency, the coalition wrote that their text messages are the “types of communications consumers want and expect," the Sun Sentinel reported.

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