Deceptive Kansas abortion texts linked to Republican-affiliated firm

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The text message arrived on Monday, the day before the Kansans set to vote about an amendment that would remove abortion protections from their state constitutions.

Document states that approving that measure, which could allow the Republican-led legislature to control outlawed abortions, would preserve “choice.” If the amendment is unsuccessful, constitutional protections will remain in place, reinforcing existing law that allows abortions during the first 22 weeks of pregnancy.

Text warns: “Women in hostels are losing the right to choose about reproductive rights. “Voteing YES on the Amendment would give women the right to choose. Vote YES to protect women’s health. “

Unsigned Many of the recipients of the messages were described as fraudulent, including former Democratic governor Kathleen Sebelius, who also served as health and human services secretary in the Obama administration. She told The Washington Post that she was “stunned when she received the message, which made it clear that there was a very specific attempt to use carefully crafted language to confuse people before they go to the polls.”

Gambit is all the more alarming to abortion rights advocates and watchdogs because of its unknown origin.

But the messages were generated by a political action committee led by Tim Huelskamp, ​​a hardline Republican former congressman from Kansas, and triggered by a fast-growing, joint venture technology company. affiliated with the Republican Party, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the flash ads. The people and groups behind the campaign have not been previously reported.

The messages were sent from phone numbers leased by Alliance Forge, based in Sparks, Nev. Founded in 2021, Alliance Forge describes itself as “the nation’s fastest-growing political technology company, proudly serving federal, state, and local campaigns across the nation.”

These numbers are leased by Alliance Forge from Twilio, a San Francisco-based communications company. The numbers were invalidated on Monday night, according to Twilio spokesman, Cris Paden, who said the account rented to them violated company policies that prohibit “spreading misinformation.”

In a statement, Alliance Forge chief executive David Espinosa said that “Alliance Forge did not consult on the strategy or messaging content of this message.” He said the company was notified Monday night of a “possible content violation” and “immediately began working with the Twilio team to determine the source and nature of the content.”

The Alliance Forge client sent the message as Do the right PACchaired by Huelskamp, ​​who served in Congress from 2011 to 2017. The PAC has raised more than $532,000 and spent more than $203,000 supporting the amendment, according to a report. submit last month. Huelskamp did not return calls and a text message seeking comment.

Kansas Government Ethics Committee speak Second, “under current law, campaigning by text message on constitutional ballot initiatives does not require paid disclaimers.”

This election cycle, Alliance Forge was paid more than $60,000 for federal campaigns alone, according to Federal Election Commission filings. Its clients include Adam Laxalt, a Republican candidate for the US Senate in Nevada, and a committee affiliated with Kathy Barnette, a political commentator and unsuccessful candidate for election. Republican nomination to the United States Senate in Pennsylvania. Alliance Forge provided text messaging services to both, filings show.

The messages sent on Monday made no mention of Alliance Forge or its customers, with no obvious way for those receiving the messages to know who was searching. to motivate them to support a “Yes” vote.

The effort has provided new evidence of the power of text messaging in political campaigning, as well as the style of covert communication that the platform is capable of. Two days after the 2020 election, a Republican company run by a top aide to then-President Donald Trump’s campaign helped send unsigned Text messages urged supporters in Philadelphia to gather outside a building where local elections officials were counting votes. It flared: “WARNING: Liberals and Radicals are trying to steal this election from Trump!”

Reports filed with the Kansas ethics committee express a keen interest in results of Tuesday’s referendumFirst major vote on abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. Oppositions spent $11.2 million this year, with the Catholic Church and its affiliates spending $3.4 million support the amendment that could give legislators the ability to impose new abortion restrictions, and the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood spend $382,000 and $1.3 million, respectively, respectively, to oppose it.

Espinosa, an IT specialist, is one of the co-founders of Alliance Forge. The other are Michael Clement, a Republican agent whose LinkedIn profile says he has managed the 2020 campaign of Congressman Burgess Owens (R-Utah), and Greg Bailor, the former commissioner of state Republican National Committee and executive director of the Nevada Republican Party.

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