Paul Vallas calls lawsuit over mayoral campaign’s text messages ‘a dirty trick’

Two Chicago men have launched a class-action lawsuit against the campaign of mayoral candidate Paul Vallas over his use of text messaging to reach voters.

But the Vallas campaign in a statement Tuesday called the lawsuit “a dirty trick” and blamed the “political machine” for the maneuver.

James Vlahakis, a consumer-rights attorney based in west suburban Lombard, filed the suit Friday in U.S District Court on behalf of Jeff Klueh and Jake Campbell, who say they never signed up to receive text messages on their phone from the Vallas campaign.

The suit alleges Vallas’ campaign violated the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits calling or texting a person using an automatic telephone dialing system without their consent.

Klueh received text messages from the Vallas campaign Dec. 5 and Dec. 20, according to the suit. Campbell was texted Jan. 2.

Additionally, neither man was given information in the message on how to opt-out of receiving future texts, according to the suit.

Text message sent by Vallas For All Chicago | Matthew Hendrickson/Sun-Times

The Chicago Sun-Times reported earlier this month that people targeted by the “spam” messages vowed it would keep them considering Vallas for the city’s top job.

A text message sent by the campaign that was obtained by the Sun-Times linked to a website paid for by Vallas for All Chicago. The site detailed Vallas’ plan to address crime and violence in the city.

Vlahakis, who has worked on “about a dozen” similar suits, said he began contemplating filing the suit after reading the story.

The suit seeks as much as $1,500 in damages from the Vallas campaign for each message sent to Klueh and Campbell, according to court filings.

Vlahakis said political campaigns need to be more aware of the risks of violating FCC rules regarding spam texting.

“There’s a general misconception that this is allowed,” according to Vlahakis, who said he also received a text message from the Vallas campaign.

“When I saw the message, I was shaking my head … because I obviously didn’t give consent,” Vlahakis said.

If the Vallas campaign is found to have violated the act, it could have to pay a minimum of $500 for each message sent, according to the suit, which estimates that the messages could have reached “at least several hundred persons.”

The suit is scheduled for a status hearing in March before Judge Andrea R. Wood at the Dirksen Courthouse, Vlahakis said.

The Vallas campaign declined to answer questions again Tuesday about their use of text messaging to reach voters but called the lawsuit “a dirty trick” in a statement.

“Clearly, the strength of my candidacy is a threat to the political machine and their pay-to-play candidates,” according to an emailed statement attributed to Vallas. “This is a dirty trick, and this is what they do.

“Our communications platform has been thoroughly vetted legally and is legal under FCC guidelines. Everyone has the option of opting out if they so choose. Our vendors follow all rules and regulations. The nation’s pre-eminent telecommunications law firm will be responding accordingly and I have no concerns.”

 

 

 

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