Texas Democrat Robert “Beto” O’Rourke, Ted Cruz's challenger for Senate this November, is an Irish-American with a Hispanic nickname. He’s spent most of his life working for the government, which makes his vast wealth (somewhere around $10 million) rather suspicious.
His father was a judge, which might explain how he got out of trouble after two separate arrests for burglary and a DWI when he was in his 20s. He hates guns, deregulation of business and enforcing immigration laws, according to his policy platform. Beto also engaged in a long history of questionable business-related practices while serving as a lawmaker. Some of these business practices might explain how he accumulated his wealth.
But today I want to talk about his text messages.
For months we’ve heard word from our radio listeners about Beto’s texts. Somehow Beto’s people have acquired the cell phone numbers of potentially thousands (maybe millions) of Texas voters and inundated them with very invasive text messages.
The texts aren’t just annoying – they set off a red flag to digital privacy advocates that someone out there is passing around your phone number to Democrat politicians.
Spam text messages - this is a new campaign technique to most Texas voters, but is it illegal? Short answer – no (more on that in a bit).
After I heard about the Beto campaign’s text message campaign I had the idea of asking our radio listeners to email me screenshots of the texts. I had no idea what I was getting into – within hours my inbox was flooded with hundreds of messages from folks who received obnoxious text messages from people they’ve never met before. At some point, I had to ask people to stop sending me screenshots – it was overwhelming.
As I said before, sending out Spam-political texts is not something we’re use to seeing here in Texas (at least, not that I’m aware of). According to the Federal Trade Commission, what Beto's people are doing is not necessarily illegal. While it is against the law for businesses to send unsolicited emails or text messages unless the sender gets permission first, political speech is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution. These texts fall under the category of "non-commercial messages" according to the FTC.
But while it may not be illegal, it is really annoying. It also poses a number of questions.
For starters, how did Beto get your cell phone number (we don’t know)?
And has anyone ever been coaxed into voting for someone because they got a text message from a stranger (probably not)?
Also, where did Beto get this really annoying idea from? This question has a more obvious answer.
The whole concept of sending out political spam text messages is very common on the upper East Coast. Voters in New Jersey have been complaining about this practice online for years, according to multiple social media posts. Not surprisingly, Beto has a close connection to a lot of East Coast Democrats (he use to work in NYC and he attended Columbia University and briefly worked at a New York based internet service provider in the late 90s).
So, annoying tactics aside, this technique of sending out junk texts probably isn’t going anywhere. We can expect Democrats to do more of this in future elections (especially if Beto wins… which he probably won’t, but that’s a topic for another day).