An onslaught of mysterious text messages bombarded voters in South Arkansas this weekend. And while it’s not clear where they came from, it’s fairly clear the texts violate Arkansas law.
People in AR House District 9 first reported the mystery messages Saturday. The texts reiterated a familiar attack candidate Howard Beaty has lobbed repeatedly at incumbent LeAnne Burch, charging that she raised taxes. In fact, Gov. Asa Hutchinson championed the “cell phone taxes” referenced in the text message. The bill boosting cell phone fees earned nearly unanimous support from Democrats and Republicans alike, and is credited with keeping emergency services running in rural Arkansas.
As you can see, the text gives no indication who sent it, or who paid for it. The text also contains inaccurate information about early voting, which goes through Nov. 2 in Arkansas this year. The mystery texter appears to violate Arkansas law requiring that political messages are identified as such.
Did banker Howard Beaty himself send the mysterious text messages? We don’t know. He hung up on us when we called to ask.
If Beaty did send the texts, it won’t be the first time he’s landed on the wrong side of the law. A banker and Louisiana native, Beaty suffered legal actions from the FDIC twice in the past decade for breaking finance laws at First State Bank in Crossett. His latest violation for putting customer funds in jeopardy came with a $35,000 fine.
Calling the number from which the mystery text messages were sent connects to a recording that says, “To unsubscribe from future calling campaigns, press one.” The number registers as coming from Hope, Arkansas.
Like many Republican candidates this election cycle, Beaty hired Little Rock-based Gilmore Strategy Group to help run his campaign. The Gilmore Group’s tactics are arguably the nastiest in the state, drawing criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike.
Many of the Gilmore Group’s mailers depict Democrats under a sickly, sallow filter, and often charge them with running up Arkansas tax bills by supporting fees to pay for 911 call centers. The mailers fail to mention that the 911 bill was championed by law enforcement, Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson and virtually all Republican state lawmakers.
Beaty and Burch are neck-and-neck on fundraising, with each reporting just over $61,000, according to the latest documents filed with the Arkansas Secretary of State.