As the 2020 election activities – particularly the Presidential contest – start to accelerate, campaign operatives need to remember that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) applies to political outreach to prospective voters.
President Trump’s campaign organization received one such reminder of sorts last week when three Minnesota citizens brought a TCPA class action in the Federal District Court in Minneapolis, alleging that Donald J. Trump For President, Inc. had texted their cellphones without consent. The case is Dan Pederson, Connor Olson and Shell Wheeler v. Donald J. Trump For President, Inc., Case 0:19-cv-02735, United States District Court for the District Of Minnesota, filed October 18, 2019.
The Plaintiffs complain that the Defendant “has devised and implemented a campaign marketing strategy which includes the transmission of text message through use of automatic dialing systems [ATDS].” Two of the Plaintiffs asserted that they received unwanted texts from a ten-digit telephone number concerning tickets to an October 10 campaign rally in Minneapolis. Another Plaintiff claims he received a Short Message Service (SMS) text from a short code urging him to “Reply YES” to receive important messages on the campaign.
The complaint lays out various arguments as to why the texts were automatically dialed, perhaps using “peer-to-peer text messaging which is an ATDS that sends text messages to lists of cellular recipients which have been uploaded by the Defendant.” The Plaintiffs noted that they “have no affiliation with the Trump For President campaign and are registered Democrats who have never provided any donations” to the President or attended any of his previous campaign rallies.
The Plaintiffs ask the Court to certify a nationwide class consisting of two components who were sent texts by the Defendant or its agents without consent “from four years prior to the filing of this Complaint through the filing of Final Approval.” They say that they believe “the [class] members number in the hundreds of thousands if not more.”
The Plaintiffs, who of course demanded a jury trial, are represented by, among others, Ronald A. Marron, no stranger to plaintiff TCPA class action litigation. The case is currently assigned to Chief Judge John R. Tunheim.
Political campaigns take heed – there is no “political campaign call” exemption when it comes to autodialing and texting.