WASHINGTON -- A string of vitriol-laden text messages hit voters' phones Tuesday night, blasting President Barack Obama with anti-gay attacks and false claims.
In what appeared to be a coordinated campaign of cell phone text mail or text messages, one Virginia voter received a message from the address [email]email@example.com[/email] that made the inflammatory claim: "Obama supports homosexuality and its radical social agenda. Say No to Obama on Nov 6!"
Mike Madden tweeted one from [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] that declared, "Re-electing Obama puts Medicare at risk."
Attorney Pater Saharko tweeted that he got a message from the same address that read: "Obama is using your tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood and abortion. Is that right?"
New York Times reporter Jonathan Weisman tweeted that his 13-year-old daughter also got a text. "Obama denies protection to babies who survive abortions. Obama is just wrong," said the message from [email]email@example.com[/email].
HuffPost's Sam Stein also got a message, declaring, "Seniors cant afford to have 4 more years of Obama budget cuts to Medicare."
Some of the messages did not seem well-targeted.
Jennifer Cyr tweeted that she got one from [email]firstname.lastname@example.org[/email] that said: "Stop Obama from forcing gay marriage on the states. Your vote is your voice."
Cyr used her voice and answered back, saying, "I'm gay, you f**king d**chebags."
The Federal Communications Commission bans unsolicited text messages, but political operatives use a loophole: They send unsolicited emails to people's phones. The telephone companies interpret these as text messages and send them along. They also charge the recipient for the unwanted message if the receiver does not have a text messaging plan.
The senders were all anonymous. A quick search for one -- votegopett -- found it was registered in February, with the owner information blocked.
Scott Goodstein, a progressive online strategist with the group Revolution Messaging, said the texts "are coming from an email address."
"It is not just random cell phone numbers," Goodstein said. "There is a company out of Northern Virginia that does this." He said the company data "matches right-leaning voters ... It registers a URL and you can't find out without a court order who owns the URL. And they send emails to your phone number via text messaging."
Goodstein added, "It costs consumers money. It is disinformation and there is no source as to where it is coming from."
UPDATE: 11:58 a.m. -- The culprit behind the texts appears to have lifted the veil of anonymity on its domain registrations, revealing itself as ccAdvertising, a firm that was accused on Halloween last year of a similar anti-Democratic stunt in several Virginia races, including one involving Republican state Senate candidate Jason Flanary.
Flanary lost to Democratic state Sen. David W. Marsden.
A Jason Flanary is listed as the technical contact in the newly revealed registrations, and Flanary is the chief operating officer of ccAdvertising, according to his bio posted by the Fairfax, Va., chamber of commerce.
The firm and related companies have also been linked to similar incidents of political text spamming elsewhere.
Flanary was not immediately available to discuss the latest stunt, his office said.
UPDATE: 5:54 p.m. -- By late Wednesday, some conservative groups began distancing themselves from ccAdvertising, with Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform telling Roll Call that it was dumping the outfit because of the unsolicited texting.
Whether you agree with the text messages or not, do you think that it's right for a company to send unsolicited political ads to consumers phones that the consumers may then have to pay for, depending on their plan? Also, is it a good or useful tool, since apparently the messages may go to anyone with a phone (including children?) Any other thoughts?