This week, potential litigants from Nebraska to Oklahoma received mailers offering the opportunity to join a class action lawsuit if former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee robocalled their houses with advertisements for a straight-to-DVD movie about the War on Christmas.
“If you received one or more telephone calls that used the recorded voice of Mike Huckabee to deliver a message as part of a campaign for the movie Last Ounce of Courage, you may be a class member in a class action lawsuit,” the mailer reads.
Lawyers for plaintiffs Dorit and Ron Golan, who first filed the suit in 2014, allege that more than 4 million calls were made in the marketing campaign for Last Ounce of Courage. The case was first dismissed in May of 2014, then allowed to proceed by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in June of 2015. The class action was certified by a U.S. district court judge in St. Louis in January of this year.
Huckabee himself was originally listed as a defendant but was later removed from the case, according to a memorandum from United States District Judge E. Richard Webber, the person who initially determined that the Golans did not have a case. The suit hinges on the plaintiffs alleging that the calls are in potential violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which stipulates that unsolicited messages with commercial content via telephone is unlawful.
Huckabee did not respond to a request for comment from The Daily Beast.
According to LastOunceClassAction.com, notice was sent out to possible class members this past Monday. Ron Golan referred The Daily Beast to his lawyers, Ron Eisenberg and Robert Schultz, but they did not respond to calls and emails at press time.
Diane Levesque of Enid, Okla. came into contact with one of the mailers for the class action this week. It was addressed to her deceased neighbor, whose mail she says she now takes care of.
Last Ounce of Courage is a 2012 movie about a small-town mayor named Bob Revere whose Christmas-themed celebration is put into legal jeopardy by a big-city lawyer named Warren Hammerschmidt.
The film is directed by Darrel Campbell, who previously worked as a comedy writer for Home Improvement and wrote the premiere episode of The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa, which initially aired on CBS followed by ABC Saturday mornings.
Campbell did not respond to an emailed request for comment about this story.
According to the complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, lawyers for the Golans, residents of St. Louis County, contend that the entertainment company responsible for producing Last Ounce of Courage was involved with Huckabee in an elaborate advertising campaign.
The complaint alleges that James R. Leininger, the manager of the San Antonio-based Mission City Management and Stephen Wayne Griffin, the President/CEO of Veritas Marketing and Veritas Entertainment invested money in the film.
According to the complaint, they subsequently went to a man named Gabe Joseph of ccAdvertising, a Virginia marketing and polling firm that had previously been used to spam-text against President Barack Obama, to figure out how to promote the film.
“Griffin and Joseph then engaged in a series of discussions about a telemarketing campaign to promote Last Ounce of Courage, with Griffin acting on behalf of both Veritas Entertainment and Veritas Marketing,” the complaint, written by Ronald Eisenberg continues.
Leininger, who also goes by “Dr. Jim,” then introduced Griffin to radio talk show host and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, according to the complaint. The movie was later screened at Huckabee’s home in Florida.
“The advertising campaign for Last Ounce of Courage included approximately 4 million telephone calls to residential telephone numbers through many states in the United States and ‘Email to Text (ETT) Messages’ to 30 million cell phones,” the complaint alleges.
What’s more is that the complaint contends the calls were meant to appear as if they were a survey to see whether call recipients had “traditional American values.” And “if the recipients believed in freedom and liberty, they would enjoy Last Ounce of Courage.”
Joseph allegedly referred to the calls as an “Artificial Intelligence Call.”
“The technology functioned ‘like a decision tree’ or, in the words of Joseph, a ‘logic tree,’ in that the recipient’s yes or no responses to questions would dictate the next prerecorded question,” the complaint alleges.
Here are some of the segments the complaint alleges were featured in the call:
“Hello, this is Governor Mike Huckabee with a 45-second survey. Do you believe in American Freedom and Liberty?”
“Would you, like me, Mike Huckabee, like to see Hollywood respect and promote traditional American values?”
“I am an enthusiastic supporter of a new movie called Last Ounce of Courage. It is a film about faith, freedom, and taking a stand for American values.”
Some of the calls also allegedly included plugs for Huckabee’s radio show, which the the Golans’ lawyers point to in the complaint.
“Huckabee composed, reviewed, and modified the script, made the recording, inserted material into the script and recording advertising his radio show, inserted material into the recording personally benefitting him, all with the knowledge and expectation that his recording be played on 4 million illegal calls,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint claims that ccAdvertising was paid $248,500 by Veritas for “4 million AIC calls to residential telephone numbers and $30,000 for 30 million Emails to Text Messages to cell phones.”
John, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska and did not give his last name to The Daily Beast, also received the notice pertaining to the suit and posted it to Twitter this week, along with the acronym “Lmao.”
“I am stunned that such a proceeding is still going. I'm actually working on a serious class action matter involving securities and such so seeing this little thing was doubly hilarious to me,” John said.
“My family and I simply received this notice. We don't plan on acting on it in any way. Just found it funny.”
And while Levesque isn’t a potential class member, she was still intrigued by the case itself.
“The card stated that there were court rulings already decided on the matter, so I'd also like to know what went on in prior court proceedings,” she told The Daily Beast. “I've got more questions than I've got answers, I'm afraid.”