WASHINGTON — Voters in Virginia are the latest to get a taste of an increasingly popular type of political attack: the anonymous text message.
“Tim Kaine calls for radical new tax on all Americans," reads a text message attacking the Democratic candidate in the Virginia Senate race.
The message came from an email address that used portions of Kaine’s name. But his campaign said it had nothing to do with the message, and called on Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to investigate. “This isn’t just a sleazy campaign tactic," Kaine’s campaign wrote in an email to supporters. “It’s a crime."
As it turns out, there is some disagreement about that.
Although the Federal Communications Commission has clearly stated that unsolicited automated text messages are against the law, some political advertising firms have found a way around the ban.
Instead of sending text messages the traditional way — from one phone number to another — these firms send emails to people’s cellphones. The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 exempts political messages from bans on email spam. But although the messages may originate as emails, the phone companies consider them incoming text messages.
Federal regulators are now being urged to close the loophole that allows unsolicited email-to-text messages.