WASHINGTON -- The man behind the company that blasted anti-gay, anti-Barack Obama text messages to voters in the Washington area this week said he learned at the feet of infamous Republican slash-and-burn political operative Lee Atwater.
The firm ccAdvertising confessed to being behind the blast of emailed text messages that showed up on phones Tuesday night saying things like " "Obama supports homosexuality and its radical social agenda" and “Obama believes killing children is a right until the umbilical cord is cut.”
Many of the texts went to registered Democrats, political operatives and journalists who are unlikely to be swayed. Some wound up reaching people perhaps inappropriately, such as the abortion message going to a 13-year-old girl, and the anti-gay message that went to a gay woman.
"Sometimes we do things to cause a reaction," Joseph said, adding later, "I was raised in the school of politics of Reagan-Bush '84 under Lee Atwater, and one of the things he taught me is that you win elections when your opponents react to what you do." Atwater, who chaired the Republican National Committee for a time, died in 1991 at age 40.
Joseph's campaign -- he declined to say who the actual client was -- certainly got a reaction. One recipient, Jennifer Cyr, tweeted her reaction to the anti-gay message. "I'm gay, you f**king douchebags," she said she answered.
Joseph said the important part of his campaign was not that people might have been offended, but that he was exercising a new, effective form of free speech.
"I'm talking with you not because what we did was not successful," Joseph said. "I'm talking with you because what we did worked."
"Every night I go to bed knowing that we're scrupulous in following the law, that the Constitution is going to protect our right to do it, and yeah, sometimes people don't like it," Joseph said. "I do this for freedom. My bottom line is this is about freedom."
Joseph's blast cost him the business of at least one conservative group, Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform, who cited the texts.
Sending unsolicited text messages are not legal, but Joseph noted FCC rules that explain why the type he sends are inbounds. For one thing, his were sent by email, and email-to-text messages are not covered by the law.
A number of groups are trying to change the law to bar such messages.
Joseph, who said his firm has contacted a billion devices in its 12 years and can make up to a 3.5 million calls in a day, said he sees that effort as fighting the future.
"For the life of me, I can't understand why someone would want to stop free speech, particularly effective free speech," he said.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.