GoDaddy suspends GOP ad firm's websites for anti-Obama texts

Virginia-based GOP advertising firm ccAdvertising was behind a flood of anti-Obama text messages sent Tuesday night, according to Web domain records.

By Wednesday morning, GoDaddy, a domain registrar, had suspended the firm's websites for spam and abuse.

ccAdvertising did not respond to a request for comment.

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It is unclear how many people received the unsolicited messages, but many people in the Washington, D.C., metro area took to Twitter and other social media sites on Tuesday night to complain about the unusual campaign tactic.

The texts covered a variety of topics, including abortion rights, Medicare and taxes.

"The average American pays at least $2,000 more in taxes than 4 years ago. STOP OBAMA!" one message read.

"Obama endorses the legality of same-sex marriage. Say No to Obama at the polls on Nov 6!" read another.

Jonathan Weisman, a reporter for The New York Times, tweeted that his 13-year-old daughter received a text reading: "Obama denies protection to babies who survive abortions. Obama is just wrong."

Mike Madden, editor of The Washington City Paper, received another: "Re-electing Obama puts Medicare at risk."

The messages came from a variety of websites rather than phone numbers. The sites included informedett.com, aicett.com and gopmessage.com.

Those sites are all registered on GoDaddy.com to Jason Flanary, the chief operating officer of ccAdvertising. Flanary, a Republican, ran for the Virginia state Senate in 2011 but lost.

According to The National Review, Mitt Romney's first presidential campaign hired the firm in 2007, and it also did work for Mike Huckabee's presidential bid that year.

The Virginia Democratic Party sued ccAdvertising in 2011 to stop a barrage of unsolicited text messages to voters, The Washington Post reported at the time. 

Political committees have paid ccAdvertising at least $735,000 this election cycle, and outside groups have paid the firm at least $290,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

The Virginia-based Life & Marriage PAC paid the firm $15,000 for text message services to oppose Heidi Heitkamp, the Democratic Senate candidate in North Dakota, according to an Oct. 23 filing.

Federal Communications Commission regulations and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 prohibit unsolicited autodialed text messages. Firms are subject to a $16,000 fine for each illegal text message.

The FCC issued a public notice in September warning campaigns and outside firms that it will "strictly enforce" the anti-spamming regulations ahead of the election.

Revolution Messaging, a liberal campaign firm, filed a petition with the FCC earlier this year asking the commission to clarify that the rules apply to messages sent from websites to phones.

The FCC began seeking comments on the petition last week. 

Scott Goodstein, the CEO of Revolution Messaging, said his group filed the petition because thousands of GOP messages were sent from websites to phones ahead of the 2010 election.

He explained that regulations for unwanted text messages are much stricter than for unwanted emails because text messages are more invasive and can cost consumers money if their cellphone plan does not allow for unlimited texting.

"It's silly to say this is sending an email," he said. "It's still going directly to that phone number."

Update at 5:29 p.m.: 

Sometime on Wednesday, the registrant for the websites on GoDaddy was changed to "G. Joseph" of Chantilly, Va. The president of ccAdvertising is Gabriel Joseph. The sites were no longer listed on GoDaddy as suspended but they appeared to still be unavailable.

—Megan Wilson contributed.