A conservative telemarketer accused of flouting federal election laws — and spamming legions of people with unsolicited anti-Barack Obama text messages — has created a new super PAC.
Gabriel S. Joseph III registered an Alexandria, Virginia-based super PAC known as The Survey Group PAC, on Wednesday with the Federal Election Commission, new documents show.
It’s unclear what Joseph, who did not immediately return requests for comment, intends to do with his new committee, which may raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for and against political candidates.
But companies Joseph has run have a history of pushing the limits of federal law on behalf of conservative clients intent on promoting political messages.
Before the 2012 election, for example, Joseph’s marketing firm, ccAdvertising, used money from a separate political action committee Joseph controlled — Americans in Contact PAC — to blast potential voters’ cell phones with political messages.
“Obama denies protection to babies who survive abortions. Obama is just wrong,” said one of several messages that primarily targeted people in the Washington, D.C., area. “Obama supports homosexuality and its radical social agenda. Say No to Obama on Nov 6!” said another.
The text messages contained no disclaimer and didn’t easily identify who sent them.
This prompted advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington to file a formal complaint with the FEC accusing Joseph of violating disclosure laws relating to election activity.
Meanwhile, the Human Rights Campaign, which supports gay rights, complained to the Federal Communications Commission that the unsolicited text messages were costing cell phone users money, since some people don’t have phone plans that feature unlimited texting.
At the time, Joseph told The Hill: “The fact that some people are bothered by this doesn’t offend me at all. It means what we’re doing is working. It means it’s effective.”
The year before, responding to questions about from the Washington Times about text messages in Virginia political races, Joseph said, “Everything that ccAdvertising does is legal, per the law of Virginia and the laws of the land.”
Joseph’s ccAdvertising firm — which is based in Centreville, Virginia, and formally registered with the Virginia State Corporation Commission by the name FreeEats.com — is also known for providing clients with aggressive robocall services. Ahead of the 2007 Iowa caucuses, the National Review reported the firm did work both for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign — and a group advocating for Romney’s Republican primary foe Mike Huckabee.
In recent years, ccAdvertising has also been paid for work on behalf of clients including Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa; Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kansas; the Republican Party of Alaska; the National Organization for Marriage and the political action committee of the Family Research Council, according to FEC filings.
The Survey Group PAC is the third political committee Joseph has formed, according to FEC records.
But during the 2012 election cycle, Americans in Contact PAC spent more than $158,000 — the majority of its expenditures — on services from ccAdvertising, Joseph’s own telemarketing firm. That includes about $10,000 worth of payments from the PAC to ccAdvertising to disseminate anti-Barack Obama “phone communication” messages, FEC records show.
It also made a $27,500 contribution to the Republican National Congressional Committee, which has also hired ccAdvertising on occasion.
According to campaign finance records, small-dollar donors who gave $200 or less accounted for the bulk of Americans in Contact PAC’s receipts.
In its complaint to the FEC, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington slammed Americans in Contact PAC as a “scam” that “duped people into contributing money to a political committee they thought would support specific candidates.”
That complaint is still pending, the group’s spokesman Derrick Crowe said.
Help support this work
Public Integrity doesn’t have paywalls and doesn’t accept advertising so that our investigative reporting can have the widest possible impact on addressing inequality in the U.S. Our work is possible thanks to support from people like you.