A class action lawsuit has been lodged against Chicago mayoral candidate Paul Vallas, alleging Vallas’ campaign committee violated consumer protection law by sending automated text messages, which urged recipients to cast votes for Vallas.
The suit was filed Jan. 11 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, which is based in Chicago, against the Paul Vallas for All Chicago election committee. Plaintiffs are Chicago residents Jeff Klueh and Jake Campbell.
The 65-year-old Vallas is former budget director for the City of Chicago and was chief executive officer of the Chicago public school system. Vallas has held other school administration posts in Louisiana and Pennsylvania. He also ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat for Illinois lieutenant governor in 2014. Vallas, who threw his hat in the ring for Chicago mayor in March 2018, is facing 13 other candidates in the Feb. 26 election.
Klueh and Campbell alleged Vallas breached the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which prohibits automated and unsolicited calls or text messages to cellular phones. They alleged Vallas’ campaign sent such texts to thousands of Chicago residents, promoting Vallas’ candidacy.
Klueh said he received Vallas texts the evenings of Wednesday Dec. 5 and Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018 with Campbell saying he received one the evening of Wednesday, Jan. 2. Each message was different, but contained about 20 words, as well as a link to the Vallas website.
The messages did not include a “stop” option to let Klueh and Campbell inform Vallas they did not wish to receive further texts, according to plaintiffs.
Klueh’s phone number has a 773 prefix and Campbell’s a 630 prefix.
Plaintiffs said they believe the Vallas campaign obtained their phone numbers, as well as the numbers of thousands of other people in Chicago, by buying or otherwise acquiring a mass list or database of numbers without permission of the number holders.
According to plaintiffs, the names of the other text recipients can be ascertained from commercially available databases and Vallas’ records.
Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, Vallas could be fined at least $500 per message, but plaintiffs want the penalty tripled, because Vallas’ alleged violation of the Act was “willful and knowing.”
Plaintiffs noted the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, headquartered in San Francisco, has ruled text messages are among electronic transmissions barred by the Act.
No hearing date is yet set and no judge assigned the case.
Klueh and Campbell are represented by James Vlahakis, of Sulaiman Law Group in suburban Lombard. The group also operates as Atlas Consumer Law.
According to the Atlas Consumer Law website, Vlahakis focuses on consumer-based litigation, particularly cases involving the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act.