Campaign for Accountability Calls on FCC to Investigate Susan B. Anthony List for Violating Consumer Protection Law
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2019
Contact: Daniel Stevens, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202.780.5750
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Campaign for Accountability (CfA), a nonprofit watchdog group focused on public accountability, called on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to investigate the anti-abortion behemoth Susan B. Anthony List (SBA List) for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). A recently settled class action lawsuit in Florida and new reporting in Pennsylvania indicate that SBA List, and a firm run by its treasurer Robert Kania, conspired to violate the TCPA by sending mass robotexts to voters in Florida and Pennsylvania.
CfA Counsel, Alice C.C. Huling, stated, “Robocalls and mass text messages plague millions of Americans. Susan B. Anthony List claims its actions are ‘designed not to hurt but to heal,’ but here they seemed more intent on annoying the tens of thousands who received the unwanted messages.”
A July 2018 class action lawsuit filed in Florida reveals that SBA List sent automated text messages to more than 200,000 people questioning whether then-Sen. Bill Nelson would support Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to become a Supreme Court Justice. The recipients of the text messages did not give SBA List their consent to receive the text messages.
According to the lawsuit, SBA List hired a data harvesting company to scrape telephone numbers from voter information files. SBA List then provided the numbers to Mr. Kania’s firm, Direct Technology Solutions, which gave the phone numbers to another firm, Mudshare, to send text messages to voters regarding Justice Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Plaintiffs in the Florida lawsuit and SBA List recently reached a preliminary settlement. SBA List has agreed to create a settlement website for people who received the text messages and establish a $1 million fund for plaintiffs to submit claims. The settlement terms require SBA List to set aside more than $1 million to play class claims and $366,000 to pay for administrative costs and attorney’s fees.
In Pennsylvania, Mr. Kania appears to have violated the TCPA on another occasion on behalf of a secret independent expenditure committee he set up called Americans Against Socialism. During the 2018 election, the committee waged a write-in campaign by, among other things, sending automatic text messages to voters in Pennsylvania. On April 8, 2019, CfA filed a complaint with the Allegheny County officials calling for an investigation into whether Mr. Kania violated Pennsylvania’s Campaign Finance Reporting Law by failing to file the required paperwork with the Pennsylvania Secretary of State.
Following CfA’s complaint, Americans Against Socialism registered with Pennsylvania authorities and submitted a report indicating the committee paid $2,062.82 to Mudshare, the same firm SBA List used for “telemarketing” during this period. Pittsburgh radio station WESA reported that during the 2018 election, residents around Pittsburgh received mass robotexts like the messages sent by Mudshare in Florida.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act prohibits any person contacting a cellular telephone number using an automatic dialing system without the recipient’s prior express consent. Based on the class action lawsuit in Florida and WESA’s reporting, it appears SBA List, Mudshare, and Direct Technology Solutions, used automatic dialing systems to contact voters in Florida and Pennsylvania without their consent in violation of the TCPA. The agency can issue warning citations and impose significant fines on repeat violators.
Ms. Huling continued, “Susan B. Anthony List and its vendors have been using the same tactics that illegal pharmacies use to sell counterfeit Viagra. The group’s donors might not be thrilled to learn their contributions are financing SBA List’s settlement for illegal conduct. The FCC should investigate whether SBA List and its vendors are continuing to violate consumer protection laws.”
Campaign for Accountability is nonprofit watchdog organization that uses research, litigation, and aggressive communications to expose misconduct and malfeasance in public life and hold those who act at the expense of the public good accountable for their actions.