The internet has been abuzz over the weekend about Republican-sponsored robocalls/dirty tricks. Josh Marshall over at Talking Points Memo has published several accounts of these episodes at a fast and furious clip. Here’s just one from yesterday:
We’re getting reports from a number of congressional districts that one or another of the GOP committees is sponsoring robocalls that begin with “I’m calling with information about [fill in name of Democratic candidate].” Apparently, many voters, irate with the flood of calls, assume that the Democrat is the one sponsoring the call.So we know that the Republicans are doing this, and we know that they’re doing it in California. Here’s how the scam works. The phone rings, the recording starts: “I’m calling with information about [oh, say, for instance, Jerry McNerney]” — and click, the unhappy voter receiving the call hangs up. These calls are reportedly being received at all hours — midnight, 5:00 a.m., you name it — whenever. And the voters who receive these calls are rightly pissed off. Only problem is that they don’t stay on the line long enough to hear the disclaimer at the very end: “Paid for by the Republican National Congressional Committee.”
In addition to the New Hampshire 2nd and New York 19th, which we covered below, TPM readers report such calls in the Illinois 6th (Roskam v. Duckworth), Illinois 8th, (McSweeney v. Bean), and California 4th (Doolittle v. Brown).
Let me be clear about one thing. These calls are illegal. But the Republicans don’t care. They figure that winning the election is the most important thing; afterwards, they’ll worry about little things like paying FCC fines. This is taken from the website of Chris Murphy, a candidate for Congress in CT-05, who has been harassed by NRCC robocalls:
FCC regulations provide that all prerecorded messages must “at the beginning of the message, state clearly the identity of the business, individual, or other entity that is responsible for initiating the call.” [47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(b)]So how does all of this figure into the CA-11 race between Jerry McNerney and Richard Pombo? Well, I’d like for you readers to tell me. Have any of you Democratic readers in the district received such calls?
FCC regulations also prohibit the making of telephone solicitations to residential telephone subscribers “before the hour of 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.” [47 C.F.R. § 64.1200(c)(1)]
We know for a fact that the NRCC has been spending a LOT of money in CA-11 for robocalls. Here’s the breakdown of NRCC independent expenditures for “phone banking” (e.g., robocalls) over the last six weeks:
9/19, $5,413That’s $83,590 for robocalls in CA-11 during a six-week period. At an estimated $.05 per call, that comes out to 1,671,800 calls that have been placed — all labeled as “anti-McNerney.” Now, follow along here closely. If approximately 39% of the voters cast their ballot for McNerney in 2004 (Democratic registration in the district is 37%), and that percentage amounted to about 100,000 voters, then we have a fairly easy-to-identify voting pool of 100,000 Democratic voters, give or take. If the NRCC placed 1,671,800 robocalls to that pool, that would amount to roughly 16 robocalls per person (enough to piss off a saint — especially if they're at off-hours).
Last night, Japhet over at DailyKos wrote a diary about his/her afternoon canvassing in Danville on Sunday:
Out of 35 doors (lots of driving to get to folks who had been missed earlier) knocked on, 23 were not home, 4 were for McNerney, 3 were undecided (all registered Dems...wtf?) and 2 told me they didn't vote.Now, I wonder about Japhet’s experience. That seems like a pretty negative response to McNerney, given Pombo’s horrendous performance and the fact that these were all Democrats. But irritation with perceived harassment by the McNerney campaign would certainly go a long way towards explaining that kind of reaction. Are the Democrats in danger of losing yet another election to Republican dirty tricks? And just how low can the Republican Party go?
[UPDATE]: Both the California Progress Report and the DCCC Stakeholder have now weighed in on this.