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Friday, September 15, 2006

TPMmuckraker : Shadowy 527 Behind Calls Hitting Democrats in Several States

More signs that Bob Perry's 527 venture is a force to be dealt with this election.

The Economic Freedom Fund (EFF) is behind robo calls in at least four states; that's in addition to heavy TV ad buys and mailers (more than $500,000 worth) that the group is funding in Iowa, Georgia, and West Virginia.

In Indiana, the group's calls attacked Baron Hill, the Democratic challenger to Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-IN). You can listen to an audio of the call here (courtesy of Taking Down Words), as captured by an Indiana man who makes it a practice to record calls from telemarketers. Indiana law bans automated phone calls, and Indiana's Attorney General says he'll investigate the case.

The caller begins by identifying himself as from "Data Research" with a "45 second public survey," and then launches in to a number of leading questions. At one point, the robo voice inquires, "Baron Hill voted to allow the sale of a broad range of violent and sexually explicit material to minors. Does knowing this make you less likely for Baron Hill?"

It's not clear which vote the robo voice is referring to, but Hill spokeswoman Abby Curran said that "Baron Hill does not support allowing the sale of such materials to minors, nor has he ever supported this."

The caller ended with "this survey was conducted by the Economic Freedom Fund."

It's a classic "push poll," a dirty campaign trick used to smear an opponent, not collect data. Notably, the caller fails to collect basic polling data about the subject (such as age and party affiliation) before launching into its questions.

In Georgia, where EFF has spent more than $160,000 on ads against Rep. Jim Marshall (D-GA), similar robo calls have been hitting him on his votes for the "death tax." Marshall spokesman Doug Moore said that the calls continued today.

EFF has also been backing calls in Rep. Alan Mollohan's (D-WV) district, where the group's spent more than $330,000 on ads in the past month. “Just about everybody I talk to has gotten one," said Mollohan spokesman Gerry Griffith. “I’ve gotten two personally myself. There’s one every day.”

In Iowa, at least two local bloggers got calls from the EFF's phony pollster. Since the calls seem to differ based on the answers given by the respondent, the accounts differ a little, but a rough transcript of the call by one shows that it attacked Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-IA) on a host of conservative key issues like gay marriage, immigration, and abortion.

Here a fact that seems to reveal EFF's strategy this election; the group is targetting races that are not quite tight, but within reach. All of the calls' targets are leading their respective races by about ten points. In Iowa's 3rd, a recent poll showed Boswell leading Republican Jeff Lamberti 52-41; in Indiana's 9th, the most recent number is Hill over incumbent Rep. Sodrel (R) by 53-42; in West Virginia's 1st district, Mollohan leads Republican challenger Chris Wakim 52-42; and in Georgia's 3rd district, the latest polls show Marshall leading by at least ten points.



TPMmuckraker September 14, 2006 08:20 PM


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