Misleading Kansas Abortion Texts Linked to Republican-Aligned Business

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

The text claimed that approving the measure, which could allow the Republican-controlled legislature to ban abortion, would preserve “choice.” If the amendment fails, constitutional protections will remain in place, strengthening the current law that allows abortion within the first 22 weeks of pregnancy.

“KS women are losing their choice over reproductive rights,” the text warns. “Voting YES to the Amendment will give women a choice. Vote YES to protect women’s health.

The unsigned the messages were described as misleading by many recipients, including former Democratic Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who also served as health and human services secretary in the Obama administration. She told The Washington Post she was “stunned to receive the message, which made it clear that there was a very specific effort to use carefully crafted language to confuse people before they go to vote.”

The scheme was all the more alarming to abortion rights advocates and watchdogs as its source was unknown.

But the messages were crafted by a political action committee headed by Tim Huelskamp, ​​a hard-line Republican former congressman from Kansas, and enabled by a fast-growing, Republican-aligned tech company, people familiar with say. of the record who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the publicity blitz. The people and groups behind the campaign have not been previously reported.

The messages were sent from phone numbers that had been leased by Sparks, Nevada-based Alliance Forge. 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.”

The numbers were leased by Alliance Forge from Twilio, a San Francisco-based communications company. The numbers were turned off Monday night, according to a Twilio spokesperson, Cris Paden, who said the account that rented them was in violation of company policies prohibiting the “spreading of misinformation”.

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

The Alliance Forge client that sent the messages was Do Right PAC, chaired by Huelskamp, ​​who served in Congress between 2011 and 2017. The PAC raised over $532,000 and spent over $203,000 to support the amendment, according to a filing last month. . Huelskamp did not respond to calls and a text message seeking comment.

The Kansas Government Ethics Commission said Monday that, “Under current law, SMS outreach about constitutional vote initiatives does not require paid disclaimers.”

This election cycle, Alliance Forge has been paid more than $60,000 by federal campaigns alone, according to documents filed with the Federal Election Commission. His clients include Adam Laxalt, Republican candidate for the US Senate in Nevada, and a committee associated with Kathy Barnette, political commentator and unsuccessful candidate for the Republican nomination for the US Senate in Pennsylvania. Alliance Forge provided text messaging services for both, according to filings.

Text messages sent on Monday did not mention Alliance Forge or its client, leaving no clear way for people who received the messages to say who was looking. to push them in favor of the “yes”.

This effort offered further proof of the power of texting in political campaigning, as well as the covert style of communication made possible by the platform. Two days after the 2020 election, a Republican firm led by then-President Donald Trump’s top campaign official, Donald Trump, helped send unsigned documents Text messages that urged supporters in Philadelphia to converge outside a building where local election officials were counting votes. He yelled, “ALERT: Radical Liberals and Democrats are trying to steal this election from Trump!”

Reports filed with the Kansas Ethics Commission illustrate strong interest in the outcome of Tuesday’s referendum, the first major vote on abortion since Roe vs. Wade was reversed in June. Opposing camps have spent $11.2 million this year, with the Catholic Church and its affiliates spending $3.4 million to back the amendment that could give lawmakers the ability to impose new restrictions on abortion and the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood spending $382,000 and $1.3 million. , respectively, to oppose it.

Espinosa, an information technology specialist, is one of the co-founders of Alliance Forge. The others are Michael Clement, a Republican agent whose LinkedIn profile says he managed Rep. Burgess Owens’ (R-Utah) 2020 campaign, and Greg Bailor, former Republican National Committee State Director and Republican Party Executive Director of the Nevada.

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