Deceptive Kansas abortion texts linked to a Republican-aligned agency

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The text messages came Monday, the day before Kansans set to vote on an amendment that would remove abortion protections from their state constitution.

The text argued that approval of the measure, which could allow the Republican-controlled legislature to outlaw abortion, would protect “choice.” If the amendment fails, constitutional protections will remain in place, undermining the current law that allows abortion in the first 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“Women in KS are losing their choice of reproductive rights,” the text warned. “Voting YES on the Amendment will give women a choice. Vote YES to protect women’s health.”

The unsigned many recipients described the messages as deceptive, including former Democratic governor Kathleen Sebelius, who also served as secretary of health and human services in the Obama administration. She told the Washington Post that she was “stuck to get the message, which showed a very specific attempt to use careful language to mislead people before they vote.”

It was more of a shock to advocates and abortion rights watchers because its source is unknown.

But the messages were crafted by a political action committee led by Tim Huelskamp, ​​a hard-line Republican congressman from Kansas, and enabled by a fast-growing, Republican-aligned technology firm, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the. condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the advertising blitz. The people and groups behind the campaign have not been previously reported.

The messages were sent from phone numbers leased by Alliance Forge, located 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 country. nation.”

Alliance Forge leased the numbers from Twilio, a communications company based in San Francisco. The numbers were disabled as of Monday afternoon, according to Twilio spokesman, Cris Paden, who said the account that leased them was in violation of company policies that prohibited the “spread of disinformation.”

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

The messages were sent by the Alliance Forge client Make Right PACchaired by Huelskamp, ​​who served in Congress from 2011 to 2017. The CCP has raised more than $532,000 and spent more than $203,000 in support of the amendment, according to filing last month. Huelskamp did not respond to calls and a text message seeking comment.

Kansas Commission on Governmental Ethics said Monday that, “under current law, text message advocacy about constitutional ballot initiatives does not require a paid disclaimer.”

One federal campaign this election cycle, Alliance Forge, has paid more than $60,000, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Among his clients are Adam Laxalt, a Republican candidate for the US Senate in Nevada, and a committee associated with Kathy Barnette, a political commentator and unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for the US Senate in Pennsylvania. Alliance Forge provided text messaging services to both, a filing shows.

The texts sent on Monday did not mention Alliance Forge or its client, leaving recipients of the messages with no clear way to tell who was looking for them to push them in favor of a “Yes” vote.

The effort offered fresh evidence of the power of text messaging in political campaigning, as well as the secretive style of communication the platform could achieve. Two days after the 2020 election, a Republican firm run by a top aide to then-President Donald Trump’s campaign send helped unsigned text messages urged supporters in Philadelphia to gather outside a building where local election officials were counting votes. He was blamed: “BEWARE: Radical Liberals & Dems are trying to steal this election from Trump!”

Reports filed with the Kansas ethics commission indicate a strong interest in the Tuesday’s referendum resultthe first major vote on abortion since then Rua v. Wade was canceled in June. The opposing camps have spent $11.2 million this year, while the Catholic Church and its affiliates have distributed $3.4 million. in support of the amendment which could give lawmakers the ability to impose new abortion restrictions with the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood spending $382,000 and $1.3 million, respectively, on oppose it.

Espinosa, an information technology specialist, is among the co-founders of Alliance Forge. The IS other people They are Michael Clement, a Republican operative whose LinkedIn profile says he managed the 2020 campaign of Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah), and Greg Bailor, former state director of the Republican National Committee and executive director of the Nevada Republican Party.

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