Personal Note From Trey:

I host a Florida-based political talk show. While I rarely do investigative journalism, I pursued this piece for years and recently broke the story on my air. I’m now sharing it here, complete with the substantiating documents. 

 

While I have served as a Republican Congressman and currently consult for Republican organizations, this piece is nonpartisan. In pursuing this story, I drew from my more than 20 years of working in TV News (CNN, CBS affiliates in Chicago, Houston & Fort Myers) and print (owner and publisher of the Naples Journal). 

 

Someone, or a group of people, set out to destroy Representative Byron Donald’s chance to serve in Congress. Here is that story. More to come. Follow on Twitter:  @TreyRadel

EXCLUSIVE: Documents Appear to Implicate Figlesthaler Staff in Fake Text Claiming Donalds Dropped Out of Congressional Race

Fort Myers, FL - Trey Radel of 92.5 FOX News obtained documents that appear to implicate the staff and/or subcontractors of Dr. William Figlesthaler’s congressional campaign as the team that sent out the fake text claiming Byron Donalds dropped out of the race. 

PRIMARY DAY

On the morning of August 18, 2020, Primary Election Day, an unknown number of people in Congressional District 19 received a text purporting to be from Byron Donalds stating, “today I dropped out of Southwest Florida's race for Congress.” While it's unknown how many voters received this text, based on media coverage and social media posts, the number is believed to be in the hundreds, possibly thousands. 

 

Along with the fake announcement, the text displayed a screenshot made to look like a local news affiliate, complete with a lower third graphic saying “Donalds Drops Out.” 

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PRIMARY DAY (continued)

That afternoon, shortly after the text was sent out, Byron Donalds’ lawyer began demanding information from Twilio, which is the texting service that utilized the platform of the company, CallHub. Representatives there indicated that an “MJ Franklin” with the email address of “MJ Franklin Home at Gmail dot com” placed the order for the fake text. 

Referencing Figlesthaler's campaign by it's more common name, "Dr. Fig," the company's attorney added: "We believe that the mjfranklinhome@gmail.com account was related to a separate account under team@drfigforcongress.com as well, because the device IP address used for payment was the same."

Letter from Byron Donalds' Attorney

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Response from Twilio / CallHub

FIG is a part ORGIANLA.png

NO TIES TO FIGLESTHALER

There is no evidence tying Dr. William Figlesthaler, himself, to the text. There is no indication he knew any of this was taking place. Figlesthaler’s attorney, via text, responded to Radel:

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NEW DOCUMENTS

 

Radel recently obtained documentation that further ties the fake text to the people working at the Figlesthaler campaign.

The information comes from CallHub, the platform used to send the text. CallHub researched IP addresses, forms of payment, and utilized a program specializing in fraud detection called MaxMind. Their investigation tied three accounts together: 

 

  • MJ Franklin - a fake name and address (NOTE: the street address is the Murder Mystery Dinner Train in Fort Myers)

  • Victory Insights, a local political consulting company with multiple ties to the Figlesthaler campaign

  • Team at Dr Fig for Congress dot com

CallHub Documentation 

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AUDIO

CallHub also released audio recordings they connected to the three aforementioned accounts. The audio files include calls from CallHub employees, as well as voicemails left with the company.

 

While some are as mundane as employees asking to change meeting times, one voicemail illustrates the connection between the fake "MJ Franklin" account and the "Team at Dr Fig for Congress" account. The unknown caller says, “I need you to clear the do not calls again for both the 'MJ Franklin' account and the 'Team at Dr. Fig for Congress account.'" Listen: 

Voicemail

I need MJ and Fig ClearedVOICEMAIL
00:00 / 00:23

BANS

All three accounts identified by CallHub - MJ Franklin, Victory Insights, and Team at Dr. Fig for Congress - are banned permanently from the platform.

NAMES, COMPANIES & CONNECTIONS

CallHub cites Collin Osbourne and Ben Galbraith as “campaign managers” to Dr. Fig for Congress and Victory Insights as the “consultant.”  

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COLLIN OSBORNE & LANDSLYDE MEDIA GROUP

Collin Osborne was directly tied to the Figlesthaler campaign through the LLC, Landslyde Media Group. Landslyde and an LLC called Southeastern Strategies (more on that company below) were the two main organizations running the Dr. Fig for Congress campaign. 

From Florida's Department of State website: SUNBIZ.ORG

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From Federal Election Commission (FEC) Website:

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BEN GALBRAITH

The FEC website shows Ben Galbraith was paid directly by the Figlesthaler campaign.

Ben G paid by FIG.png

BEN GALBRAITH & VICTORY INSIGHTS

Ben Galbraith is listed as President of Victory Insights, the company identified by CallHub. 

From Florida's Department of State website: SUNBIZ.ORG

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RACHAEL HURLEY (née SCHAAF) & VICTORY INSIGHTS

Victory Insights is an active LLC, with two names. Ben Galbraith is listed as President; Racheal Hurley is a manager. Her maiden name is Schaaf. Rachel Schaaf helped the Figlestahler campaign with a company called SouthEastern Strategies. SouthEastern and Landslyde were two consulting companies helping run the Figlsthaler campaign, both disclosed on FEC expenditures. Here she is in her own words:

From Federal Election Commission (FEC) Website:

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From Florida's Department of State website: SUNBIZ.ORG

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MULTIPLE ATTEMPTS / NO RESPONSES

Radel made multiple attempts to contact Osborne, Galbraith, and Hurley (née Schaaf) with emails, texts, and voicemails, as well as messages though social media platforms. The only response came from Osborne, who wrote, "Hey Trey, Defamation is illegal, keep that in mind. Thanks, Collin Osborne."

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NO CHARGES

To date, neither the State of Florida nor the Federal Government have filed charges. The Public Affairs Specialist at the FBI Tampa Division writes, "While we can neither confirm nor deny the existence of any specific investigation, our teams of investigators, including our Election Crime Coordinators of agents and analysts in each of our 56 field offices, remain vigilant in detecting and investigating anyone who tries to undermine our election process."

SUMMARY

The election process was, in fact, undermined in ways the voters in Florida's 19th district will never know. The fake text potentially altered votes in favor of - or detracted from - the top three candidates who came within percentage points of each other: Byron Donalds, Dane Eagle, and Casey Askar.  

If you have any information, the FBI encourages you to contact them. For the voters of Congressional District 19, the regional office is in Tampa: 

FBI Tampa Field Office 

(813) 253-1000