EFF was created in August with $5 million from multimillionaire Bob Perry, the main backer for the GOP's favorite 2004 smear machine, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. The group has launched aggressive attacks on Democrats in Georgia, West Virginia, Iowa and Indiana by pushing oft-misleading claims through television ads, mailers -- and robo calls, like those which caused Barnes' phone to ring off the hook.
Barnes, a mother of three, is hardly a political activist. She says sheâs never even contributed to a political campaign. Her company, AETR (An Event to Remember) is an event planning firm, she says, and has never used telephone marketing like the robo calls done by EFF's contractor, ccAdvertising. (Barnes denied any connection to an escort service, "An Escort to Remember," which shows up on a Yellow Book search of her number.)
ccAdvertising was revealed to be behind the calls in a lawsuit filed last week. The Virginia-based company admitted to bombarding Hoosiers with calls attacking Dem House candidate Baron Hill. The company filed suit against the state, which earlier had sued the company for violating Indiana's automated phone call ban. ccAdvertising said its First Amendment rights were being violated.
After Barnes learned ccAdvertising was behind the calls, she called the company to complain, she told me. According to Barnes, Gabriel Joseph, the company president, told her he "took [AETR] off our caller ID as of Friday." When she said that his use of her company's name was against the law, she says he denied having done so. He insisted his company had "thousands of DBAs," alias "doing business as" names. Then, she says, he referred further legal questions to "the main number."
When I called Joseph, he denied ever having used another company's name. "It's very easy to be able to take caller ID and make it appear as if it is coming from another number; we put names that are legal and active with our numbers," he told me. "We obey the federal law way above the standard."
When I asked if his company had "thousands of DBAs," he declined to comment. A review of corporate records shows that the company has a number of generic-sounding aliases, including Data Research, Election Research, Public Research, and Political Research Survey. We could find no record of the company registering AETR as an alias.
Joseph also wouldn't confirm working on behalf of EFF, although court documents confirm the relationship.
EFF did not return my call for comment.