As reported in The Breeze on September 28, James Madison University students recently received unsolicited mass text messages from representatives claiming to be from the Finnegan campaign. This information was retained using a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the school by a representative of NextGen Virginia. NextGen is a political group funded by California billionaire Tom Steyer.
The text messages claim to be volunteers of the Finnegan campaign, but neither Brent Finnegan nor anyone claiming to be with his campaign requested the data from James Madison University.
While it appears any political campaign or organization may have the ability under current law to retain this information, some have questioned whether this information can actually be used to send unsolicited mass texts to individuals. The Wilt for Delegate campaign has chosen not to obtain it out of respect for student privacy.
“It may be legal to obtain this information through FOIA, but I believe personal cell phone information should only be used selectively to communicate emergency or other vital information to students, not to receive solicitations from outside political groups,” stated Delegate Wilt. “I hope my opponent will encourage any outside organizations working on his behalf to reconsider this tactic. While I respect anyone’s right to encourage civic engagement in our electoral process, it’s concerning that organizations funded by out-of-state individuals are facilitating this type of aggressive behavior in the Shenandoah Valley to influence the outcome of our elections. This “win at any cost” attitude is best left in California and not brought into our community.”
As the Washington Post reported on August 22, Mr. Steyer is contributing $2 million through NextGen towards the Virginia elections for efforts to register college students and get them to the polls to support Democrat candidates. NextGen America representatives have been on campus registering students since the beginning of the semester.